2010 World Cup champions Spain go into the 2018 edition in Russia as one of the clear favourites. After disappointing in their last two international tournaments, a change of head coach has reinvigorated La Roja as Julen Lopetegui looks to have all the tools at his disposal to bring the trophy back to Spain.
This Spain side is undoubtedly one of the strongest on paper and seems to have a perfect blend of youth and experience. Sergio Busquets and Andres Iniesta have a longstanding understanding between themselves and probably for the last international tournament, will be two guaranteed starters for the European nation.
In goal, Lopetegui could not ask for anything more as he has arguably the best keeper in the world in the form of David de Gea at his disposal. The Manchester United number one is on the back of yet another Player of the Year performance, and will now have his eyes set on being a world champion.
Strength in depth in this side is another factor that could give them the upper hand over most nations. The likes of Marco Asensio, Saul, Iago Aspas and Cesar Azpilicueta can all fit in in case of injuries while could also provide unique options in case the manager opts to tweak his formation.
Given a squad like Spain’s, one could be forgiven for not being able to find any weaknesses. However, the striking option and the centre-back pairing of Sergio Ramos and Gerard Pique could be their Achilles heel.
Spain haven’t quite been able to replace David Villa and despite Diego Costa seeming like an obvious choice, he hasn’t gelled too well with his compatriots because of missing several games due to injuries and lack of match fitness.
Ramos and Pique have been a solid pair at the rock of Spain’s defence over the years but both are on the wrong side of 30 and have slowed down considerably. While it can be argued that they have the experience to deal with all things that come their way, they have not been up to the ask in the Euros in 2016 or the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.
Spain are likely to play in a 4-3-3 shape with Thiago partnering Iniesta and Busquets at the heart of midfield. Ahead of them, David Silva and Isco may start out as wide forwards on paper, but are likely to drift in and feed off each other’s creativity to devastating effect.
Defensively, Jordi Alba is an obvious choice at left-back. He offers this Spain side a different dimension in the final third will be one of the first names on the teamsheet for Lopetegui. On the other side, however, Dani Carvajal’s fitness could be a major worry and the Real Sociedad man Alvaro Odriozola could be preferred to the Real Madrid full-back.
Goalkeepers: Kepa Arrizabalaga (Athletic Bilbao), David De Gea (Manchester United), Pepe Reina (Napoli)
Defenders: Cesar Azpilicueta (Chelsea), Dani Carvajal (Real Madrid), Jordi Alba (Barcelona), Nacho (Real Madrid), Nacho Monreal (Arsenal), Alvaro Odriozola (Real Sociedad), Gerard Pique (Barcelona), Sergio Ramos (Real Madrid)
Midfielders: Isco (Real Madrid), Thiago Alcantara (Bayern Munich), Sergio Busquets (Barcelona), David Silva (Manchester City), Andres Iniesta (Barcelona), Saul Niguez (Atletico Madrid), Koke (Atletico Madrid)
Forwards: Marco Asensio (Real Madrid), Iago Aspas (Celta Vigo), Diego Costa (Atletico Madrid), Rodrigo (Valencia), Lucas Vazquez (Real Madrid)