For the next chapter in our look forward to the World Cup 2014, we are going to be taking a look at the world champions, Spain. The Spaniards have won the last three major tournaments in a row, and will be hoping to make it a record breaking fourth in Brazil. With an impressive mix of youth and experience Vincente del Bosque has a flourish of talent in his final squad – and so could our fantasy managers when the new game launches on 3rd June.
Atletico Madrid midfielder Koke is the youngest at del Bosque’s disposal, and Barcelona star Xavi, at the age of 34, is the most senior player, with Real Madrid goalkeeper Iker Casillas the international captain. Spain are bidding to become only the third team in history to retain the World Cup, after Italy first achieved that feat in the third World Cup (1938, having first won it in 1934) and Brazil achieved their first of two wins in a row 20 years later (1958 & 1962). Spain are easily one of the teams most managers will be looking to for players in their fantasy football squads, and with world class talent such as Gerard Pique, Xavi, Juan Mata and Diego Costa available, who can blame them?
In goal, Casillas has had a stop-start year, starting his first game in 238 days in the Champions League clash with Galatasaray, and so one may expect him to retain the role throughout the tournament – but Pepe Reina (Napoli) and David de Gea (Man Utd) have both had decent seasons, earning themselves 230 and 265 points respectively. Perhaps look at Casillas proving a consistent face in the squad, but he is by no means safe with two top-quality stoppers breathing down his neck.
Del Bosque prefers an offensive 4-3-3 formation, so his back four are likely to retain the traditional flat-line, but the presence of full-backs Cesar Azpilicueta and Jordi Alba make two of those spots surely wrapped up already. Azpilicueta has had a cracking season with Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea, and his 245 point tally is the highest amongst the Spanish defence, while Jaunfran is likely to feature as his deputy. Barcelona’s Jordi Alba has been slightly less impressive admittedly, with his 85 point paling in comparison, but as a natural left-back he could well claim that place as his own.
In the middle things get a bit tougher to determine, though Sergio Ramos (Real Madrid, 195 points) and Gerard Pique (Barcelona, 190 points) could well start together given their high level of international experience (115 caps and 60 caps respectively).
Towards the middle of the park, Spain’s central line is one of the most impressive likely to be seen anywhere in Brazil this summer. With del Bosque liking a defensive midfielder to act as an enforcer and bridge between his central midfielders and defenders, he could well turn to former Liverpool star Xabi Alonso, now plying his trade for Real Madrid. The 32-year-old continues the theme of experience, and has proven himself a top holding player during his years in England and Spain. He earned 115 points this season for Real, so while this is far from the highest in Spain’s midfield any fantasy managers are unlikely to go far wrong with this man.
Man Utd target and former Arsenal star Cesc Fabregas has earned himself 420 points this season over 36 appearances, netting eight goals and making eight assists along the way – so he is surely ready to feature heavily in the center of midfield. Seasoned veteran Xavi looks good to add to his impressive 131 caps for Spain (plus 10 for Catalonia), and would well start against the Netherlands on the champions’ opening day. His 190 points show that he is still more than capable of pulling out a performance on the big stage, so look for an all-Barcelona central midfield.
Towards the left of the attacking lineup, Man Utd star Juan Mata could well be a contender – he has been one of the Red Devils’ highlights since his January move from Chelsea, and has been a regular fixture in the Spanish squad since making his international debut in 2009. He has earned 270 points over the course of this season through playing for two clubs, which would seem to indicate an ability to settle quickly in unfamiliar surroundings – he could perhaps be a shining beacon for the world champions in the World Cup, so definitely consider adding him to your fantasy football squad.
On the other side, Barcelona forward Pedro may appear, given his accomplishments as a winger. He has 385 points this season, with 15 goals and eight assists from his 37 appearances – he is likely to be a constant threat to the Netherlands and any opposition he comes up against, and is another face that fantasy managers should definitely consider adding to their squads.
In the striking role, there are some serious contenders as expected, with David Villa, Fernando Torres and Diego Costa in the squad. Any could start, but Costa’s clinical eye for goal coupled with his natural ability on the ball mean he should be able to do a good job against the Netherlands – and with a potential move to Chelsea on the cards at some stage this summer, he could well be playing to impress. His 505 points this season puts him right up there with some of the world’s finest, so go for the Atletico hitman to kick his World Cup campaign off with a bang.