Reigning world and European champions Spain begin their bid to win a fourth successive major tournament tomorrow night with a trip to Georgia and a warning from coach Vicente del Bosque.
Spain travel to Tbilisi for their opening 2014 World Cup qualifier on the back of a 13-match unbeaten run which has brought them 11 wins, one of which was a 4-0 mauling of Italy in the final of UEFA EURO 2012.
That victory saw the Spanish retain their European Championship title and, having also won the FIFA World Cup™ in 2010, they will be highly-fancied to pick up more silverware in Brazil in two years' time.
However, Del Bosque has been keen to point out that prospect is much further down the line and first they need to get through a five-team qualifying group that also includes France, Finland, Belarus as well as tomorrow's opponents Georgia.
"The World Cup does not start in 2014, but now, here against Georgia in Tbilisi. To defend the title that Spain won in Johannesburg we need to first qualify for Brazil," said Del Bosque in AS.
"The players know that we are starting a tough qualification phase, where we cannot afford to be complacent because a mistake could be a problem."
The World Cup does not start in 2014, but now, here against Georgia in Tbilisi.
Up until a decade ago the defending champions received an automatic berth in the following FIFA World Cup, but that rule was changed for Germany 2006, with 2002 winners Brazil having to go through qualifying.
Asked about that rule today, Spain captain Iker Casillas said: "Obviously it's strange and difficult to grasp that the world champions do not have a ticket for Brazil, but that's what's been decided, they've preferred that the champions have to qualify.
"It's true that what could happen is that we don't get to the World Cup and it would be strange not to see the champions defend their title, but we're going to think positively and think that we will be there."
Spain warmed up for the match with a 5-0 friendly mauling of Saudi Arabia on Friday night, a match which saw David Villa make a goalscoring return as a second-half substitute following an international absence of almost a year because of injury.
The other goals in that match came from Santi Cazorla, Xavi and Pedro Rodriguez, who netted a brace.
Looking ahead to tomorrow's match, Casillas said: "We have to start on the right foot. It would be very important to pick up two victories, against Georgia now and Belarus in October, before hosting France."
Georgia have already started their qualification campaign with a win, beating Belarus 1-0 at home on Friday thanks to a second-half strike from Tornike Okriashvili. That left them joint top of the group alongside France, who beat Finland 1-0 away.