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How they qualified
Spain will head to Brazil as defending champions. Remaining loyal to the style and players that have allowed them to dominate the global and European scenes over the last five years, La Roja won the only qualification pool (aside from the South American group) to contain two world champions. In what was the smallest section in Europe with only five teams, the Spanish led the way from France thanks to a record of six wins and two draws, conceded to the French and Finland. In topping the group they let in a mere three goals, fewer than any other side in the European preliminaries. At the other end of the pitch, however, Spain enjoyed one of their less prolific campaigns, scoring only 14 times.
FIFA World Cup finals history
Prior to lifting the coveted Trophy in South Africa, so frequent were their exits at the last eight of the finals that Spain were said to be suffering from a ‘quarter-final jinx’. Brazil 2014 will be La Selección‘s tenth consecutive world finals appearance, and 14th in all, with their best performance before last year’s success coming at Brazil 1950. Having topped their first-round section, Spain went straight into the decisive four-team final group stage – where they finished fourth behind Uruguay, Brazil and Sweden.
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.
The men in red have a phalanx of very reliable keepers to call on, headed by Iker Casillas, while Sergio Ramos and Gerard Pique have consolidated their positions as the leaders of a defence in which left-back Jordi Alba has gone from strength to strength. Ramos and Alba are also a threat in the opposing box, and in recent times have made goalscoring contributions that have been almost as decisive as those of the front men.
With both David Villa and Fernando Torres struggling to find their touch, Pedro has distinguished himself as an attacking spearhead, ably supported by Cesc Fabregas, while Alvaro Negredo has begun to stake a compelling claim of his own for the striking role.
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
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