World Cup Class of 2018: Spain


European qualifiers for the 2018 World Cup have begun

Population:  46.4 million
Capital:  Madrid
Team Colors:  Red, Yellow, and Blue
How Qualified:  Won UEFA Group G
Nickname:  La Furia Roja
15th World Cup
Head Coach:  Julen Lopetegui (ESP)
Key Players:  Diego Costa (Atletico Madrid), Sergio Ramos (Real Madrid), Isco (Real Madrid), David de Gea (Manchester United), David Silva (Manchester City)
Best Performance:  Champions (2010)
Can they prove that 2014 was just an aberration? After winning the World Cup in 2010 and following it up with another triumph at Euro 2012, Spain went to pieces in 2014 and went out in the first round. 
In this World Cup cycle, Spain qualified with an undefeated record and looks to be back on the right track. In fact, Spain’s last loss was that 2-0 decision to Italy at Euro 2016 at the Stade de France. They are unbeaten in 18 matches since. 
In the lead up to the Cup, however, Sergio Ramos must contend with a firestorm after his tackle of Mo Salah in the UEFA Champions League final caused the latter to suffer a shoulder injury and leave the match. Some have viewed that foul as a hatchet job and there is a petition calling for him to be banned as a result. On a side note, Spain’s Dani Carvajal is racing to be fit after his injury in the same match.
Spain’s style of play has been described as “Tiki-taka” with an emphasis on short passing and movement and an understanding of geometry of space on the pitch. It worked wonders for them between 2008 and 2012. An updated version of that style will be used by Julen Lopetegui in Russia in the hopes of going far into this World Cup.
The challenge now is to translate possession into goals and how well Spain adapts if other teams counter Spain’s geometry with their own calculus on how to defend them. The probability is that Spain will advance to the group stage, but they will need to optimize their game to add another World Cup to their trophy case. 
June 15:  vs. Portugal in Sochi (1pm CT on FOX/Telemundo)
June 20:  vs. Iran in Kazan (1pm CT on FOX/Telemundo)
June 25:  vs. Morocco in Kaliningrad (1pm CT on FS1/NBC Universo)


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