Spain booked their passage to the FIFA Confederations Cup Brazil 2013 as world champions, after clinching the most coveted crown in the global game at the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™, courtesy of Andres Iniesta's goal against the Netherlands.
Following on from that triumph, La Selección took part in UEFA EURO 2012, a competition that also offered a ticket for Brazil 2013. Despite an uneven start to the tournament, La Roja went all the way to the final, where they roundly defeated Italy 4-0. The victory completed a historic sequence of three major trophies in succession, with the team having also won EURO 2008.
Come this year’s Festival of Champions, Spain will be determined to claim a title that eluded them at South Africa 2009 – their only previous appearance at the competition. Stunned by USA in the semi-finals on African soil, Vicente del Bosque’s charges had to make do with the final berth on the podium after beating the host nation in the match for third place.
The current crop
The reigning European and world champions, the onus is now on Spain to consolidate and defend their crowns. Coach Vicente del Bosque has continued to look for fresh new talents to boost his squad for the challenges ahead, particularly given the nucleus of his all-conquering squad are approaching or have hit their 30s now that Brazil 2014 qualifying has begun. Key to the success of this process will be maintaining La Roja’s enviable dressing-room harmony and staying true to a playing philosophy based around touch, teamwork and skill on the ball.
The key players
Though there is no doubt that Spain’s embarrassment of midfield riches, featuring the likes of Xavi, Andres Iniesta and Xabi Alonso, has been integral to their major trophy triumphs, La Selección are strong across the board. Indeed, one needs only mention the safe hands of goalkeeper Iker Casillas, the goalscoring nous of David Villa or Fernando Torres and a backline featuring the leadership of Carles Puyol and the class and increasing maturity of Gerard Pique. Nor can you forget younger players such as Pedro and Fernando Llorente who, given their impact since breaking into the squad, are also clearly here to stay.
Coach: Vicente del Bosque
Best performances in a FIFA competition: FIFA World Cup South Africa 2010 (Winners), FIFA U-20 World Cup Nigeria 1999 (Winners), Men’s Olympic Football Tournament Barcelona 1992 (Winners)
Former stars: Luis Suarez, Emilio Butragueno, Fernando Hierro