1. Saint Iker: Any team that aspires to win the biggest prize in football needs a world-class goalkeeper who is at the top of his game. Italy had Buffon in 2006, and for South Africa 2010 read Iker Casillas. The Madrid goalkeeper is considered the best Spanish goalkeeper of all time; lightning reactions, command of his area and solid with his feet; he has it all At the Bernabéu they call him ‘San Iker’, and after saving your skin literally hundreds of times, you begin to know if there are extraterrestrial powers hidden between those gloves.
2. By club and country: In the Spanish starting XI you will find groups of players plying their trade together at club level, and that understanding is irreplaceable. In defense you have Piqué and Puyol from Barça, in midfield Xavi and Iniesta (and Sergio Busquets when Senna is not available) and up front; Villa and Silva from Valencia. They all know each other so well that they have developed an almost telepathic understanding and instantly transform the form of the club on the international stage.
3. Euro Euphoria: For years, Spain had gone into tournaments among the favorites, only to disappoint time and time again. They and England had mastered the art of crashing out in the quarter-final. But Euro 2008 changed all that. While England failed to even qualify, Spain fought their way to Vienna and defeated the Germans to lift the Euro 2008 trophy. They have finally discarded the ‘Perennial Underachievers’ label that had plagued them for so long; Now for the world cup.
4. Wonder Villa: Is your deadliest marksman in the game right now than David Villa? Right now only Eto’o and Luis Fabiano for Brazil are close. The other suitor will line up next to him; Fernando Torres. Villa was a revelation at Euro 2008, scoring 4 for 4 to send Spain to the final, finishing the tournament as top scorer. Unfortunately for the Valencia star, he was unable to play against the Germans due to injury, but he will be keen to correct that in South Africa. The striker has 33 goals for Spain, and has already scored three goals at a World Cup: he has to be a solid bet to be the top scorer at the 2010 World Cup.
5. Superstyle: Is there any international team that plays in the same style and style as Spain at the moment? The answer has to be a resounding no. Spain has won over the world with its characteristic incisor, the first-touch pass. They score goals for fun, as their qualifying group rivals will attest. They run around teams, grinding them into submission, almost toying with their opposition at times. They have established eleven first and fixed formations for any circumstance or match. Teams simply can’t take the ball away from them, and as any astute soccer manager will tell you: you can’t score goals if you don’t have the ball.
6. Fight in style: As mentioned above, we all know Spain’s style, but as yesterday’s friendly against Argentina showed, they are not afraid of getting stuck. Argentina came out in the second half with a game plan to get into Spain’s miniature midfielders. Masherano and Gago faced Xavi, Iniesta and Alonso with the toughness one would expect from a team led by Diego Maradona. But Spain gave the best she received, and never lost her head in the heat of battle. Villa, Alonso, Xavi and company. He showed that you can fight fire with fire, and Spain ended up putting the Argentines to bed. This bodes well for a World Cup where teams will have no choice but to intimidate Spain.
7. Super Substitutes: When Cesc Fábregas, Xabi Alonso, Pepe Reina and Álvaro Negredo have a hard time getting into the starting eleven, you know you’re dealing with a special group of players. They have world-class players as reinforcements in all departments: Senna is injured, Busquets enters. Silva needs a break, let’s deliver Juan Mata. Third option chrome Does Negredo feel like a breather? He brings LaLiga’s top scorer from 2008, Dani Güiza. Amazing.
8. Mix It Up: The Spanish have a fantastic mix of wise old heads and lively youngsters. Players like Puyol, Casillas, Xavi or Senna have been there and have done it. Younger players like Iniesta, Silva and Cesc were part of the Euro 2008 winning team, so nothing will put them off next year. And with some youngsters in the form of Jesús Navas, Juan Mata, Pablo Hernández and Nacho Monreal, Spain are in a fantastic position to unleash them in friendlies before next summer.
9. Anybody out there? Who are the royalist challengers to Spain’s assault on South Africa? Brazil, Argentina, Italy, France and Germany are the usual suspects. England and Holland will make waves, but you can usually rely on the aforementioned to mount the more serious challenges. Spain have beaten them all in the last two years, with the exception of Brazil, and we were denied the opportunity to see them meet in the Confederations Cup due to an unexpected slaughter of US giants. Man for man, I’d bet my 10 euros for Spain, but by no means underestimate the Brazilians, who always seem to pull off performances for big occasions.
10. It’s your turn! Brazil, Argentina, Italy, France and Germany have won, so it’s Spain’s turn, right? France proved they can win a World Cup and a Euro in a row with their double in 1998 and 2000, so Spain should not be intimidated by the prospect. World Cups are naturally hard to predict, and anything can happen in 90 minutes of soccer qualifiers. But I have already made my prediction, and if ‘La Roja’ manages to get rid of the weight of expectation and ignite it in South Africa, surely the trophy will go to the Barajas airport on July 12, 2010.