It’s been just over a decade since La Roja dominated international football. An unprecedented treble of back-to-back Euro wins (2008 and 2012) and the World Cup in 2010 is unlikely to be repeated. For the younger generation, prior to this Spain were considered perennial tournament underachievers.
They were in danger of slipping back into that old coat after disappointing exits in the group stage at Brazil 2014, the last 16 at Euro 2016 and most disappointingly of all the last 16 to Russia four years ago, however, many informed opinions considered them the best team at last year’s delayed Euro 2020 despite the semi-final penalty shoot-out defeat to eventual winners Italy.
Here to assess if they can go a step further at the World Cup 2022 is Paddy Power’s chief football trader Jason Murphy.
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Spain World Cup 2022 qualifying record
Spain topped their group with six wins but it was not all plain sailing with an opening day draw at home to Greece and a loss away to Sweden. Amazingly, that defeat was their first in World Cup qualifying since 1993, ending a 66-game run. It meant they needed to avoid defeat at home to the Swedes in the last game to ensure automatic qualification, and it was not until Alvaro Morata’s late goal in the 86th minute that Spain could start checking their passports for Qatar.
Who is the Spain manager?
Luis Enrique took charge of Spain after the 2018 World Cup and started well by beating England 2-1 in his first match. He had to step away from the national side for personal reasons in June 2019, before returning later that November. He has a 59% win rate as La Roja manager, which is good considering a lot of these games have been against strong opposition.
It’s still shy of his 76% win rate as Barcelona manager, where he won a the treble in his first season with the ‘MSN’ (Messi, Suarez, Neymar) up top. His managerial style would be considered serious and having played over 150 games each for both Barcelona and Real Madrid, he ticks all the boxes for a big tournament manager. He’s not afraid to make unpopular decisions either. Enrique will pick players that suit the way he wants to play, opposed to those that might be perceived as more talented.
Spain World Cup squad
Spain will play a 4-3-3 with the focus on being more direct than what you might picture of La Roja a decade ago. Their main strength is they will have no superstars. For every position, Enrique has two or three players to choose from with little difference in quality of whoever he chooses.
Spain will dominate most teams but turning that dominance into goals will be key. Some players that might be considered as starters have missed recent games through injury and that will not have helped to find a settled XI. Aymeric Laporte, Mikel Oyarzabal (most serious injury of all) and Dani Olmo all started the Euro 2020 semi-final. Enrique will still be unsure of his best XI which is not ideal heading into a World Cup but the opening game v Costa Rica gives them the opportunity to click and ease into the tournament.
Goalkeepers: Unai Simon (Athletic Bilbao), Robert Sanchez (Brighton), David Raya (Brentford)
Defenders: Dani Carvajal (Real Madrid), Cesar Azpilicueta (Chelsea), Eric Garcia (Barcelona), Hugo Guillamón (Valencia), Pau Torres (Villarreal), Aymeric Laporte (Man City), Jordi Alba (Barcelona), Jose Gayà (Valencia)
Midfielders: Sergio Busquets (Barcelona), Rodri (Man City), Gavi (Barcelona), Carlos Soler (PSG), Marcos Llorente (Atletico Madrid), Pedri (Barcelona), Koke (Atletico Madrid)
Forwards: Ferran Torres (Barcelona), Nico Williams (Athletic Bilbao), Yeremy Pino (Villarreal), Alvaro Morata (Atletico Madrid), Marco Asensio (Real Madrid), Pablo Sarabia (PSG), Dani Olmo (RB Leipzig), Ansu Fati (Barcelona)
Spain Key Player
Pedri. Imagine. 18 years of age. Lining up in midfield in the semi-final of major international football tournament for your country, against players such as Marco Verratti, Leonardo Bonucci, Nicolo Barella and Giorgio Chiellini. Then you go on to produce one of the finest performances you will ever see from a footballer of any age. The longer the game went on, the better Pedri got. He played 120 minutes and finished the game having been almost near perfect completing 61 of 62 attempted passes. Not surprisingly he won young player of the tournament. Despite his age, both Barcelona and Spain are noticeably worse when Pedri is not on the pitch.
Spain One to Watch
Ferran Torres. Like Enrique, we have a lot of choice here but Torres could just make a mark. We saw glimpses of his quality at Man City where he started the 21/22 season as their first choice No. 9 before injury ruled him out for two months and he subsequently signed for Barcelona that January. He is still only 22 and therefore can be considered a ‘rising star’ and certainly one to watch at the World Cup. He can play anywhere across the front three and he has 13 goals in 30 international appearances, including a hat-trick against Germany. He has a great mentality too, he wanted to be made club captain at Valencia.
Spain World Cup Prospects
A concern is Spain at the back, particularly defending set pieces, as seen in the 2-1 defeat to Switzerland in September. They will be disappointed if they do not go beyond the quarter-finals and once in the semi-finals, they can beat anyone. They are potential winners, with another a semi-final appearance considered a solid tournament. If they turn the possession into chances, and chances into goals, then they could go far.
Spain World Cup betting tips
Previous Golden Ball winners include Diego Maradona, Zinedine Zidane, Lionel Messi and Luka Modric. Pedri is in this company. If you fancy Spain to do well in this tournament then this is a good way to get with Spain as a good run in the tournament will be largely down to him. Also note, the last six winners of the shiny Player of the Tournament award did not play for the World Cup winners. GOLDEN BALL (PLAYER OF THE TOURNAMENT) WINNER: PEDRI
Spain World Cup Winner Odds
Spain World Cup 2022 Fixtures
November 23, 4pm: Spain 7-0 Costa Rica (ITV)
November 27, 7pm: Spain 1-1 Germany (BBC)
December 1, 7pm: Japan 2-1 Spain (ITV)
December 6, 7pm: Morocco v Spain (ITV)
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*All prices are bang up to date with our snazzy widgets, while odds in copy are accurate at time of publishing but subject to change
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