MURCIA, SPAIN - JUNE 08: Fernando Torres of Spain celebrates the goal of his teammate Pedro Rodriguez during the International Friendly match between Spain and Poland at the Estadio Nueva Condomina on June 8, 2010 in Murcia, Spain. (Photo by Jasper Juinen/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Fernando Torres
FIFA RANK: 2
I'll make this simple so we can all understand what we're dealing with here. The Spanish, in my mind are the team to beat at the World Cup. In fact, I'll take it a step furthur and say if Brazil is ranked first in FIFA, then Spain is 1-A. Spain has everything and anything you would want in a soccer team. They even have a rockin' nickname..."La Furia Roja" which means "The Red Fury."
Believe me, I'm not over-exaggerating when I talk about the individual parts that make up this powerful European squad. Fernando Torres and David Villa are the most dangerous striker tandem in the world. I even nicknamed them the Spanish Armada for the assault they lay on their opponents throughout the match. The midfield? Unreal with stars like Xabi Alonso, Xavi, Iniesta and David Silva. The backline? Equally impressive with Sergio Ramos, Pique, Capevilla and Carlos Puyol. The keeper? One of the best in the world, Iker Casillas. I literally just rattled off the entire starting line-up, a first for these articles, but that's the amount of respect I have for La Furia Roja.
Spain also heads into South Africa feeling cool, calm and relaxed. They no longer carry the burden of the biggest underachievers in the world, that now belongs to the Netherlands. La Furia Roja finally lived up to their immense talent when they took home the Euro '08 title. It was a huge moment for this team because it showed they had finally arrived as a group and not individuals. There will always be a rift in the political landscape between Barcelona and Madrid, but the team has risen above it and the chemistry is in tact. They now have the mindset of a team to beat in South Africa instead of just the common dark-horse label that had been placed upon them for decades.
Spain's next step is to rid itself of the ghost of World Cups past. With the amount of success and talent this nation has had, it's hard to believe their best finish at the World Cup was fourth place, 60 years ago. After what we've seen from this squad over the past four years, anything less than a place in the final would be a big disappointment.
So is there any weakness on this squad? Quick answer, no. But if I had to point out something, it would maybe be their overconfidence. Wait, I take that back, there is no weakness, but the US did beat Spain in the Confederations Cup semi-final last summer, so anything can happen and usually will in cup soccer.
It honestly still boggles my mind the US beat Spain in that tournament. I think to myself, how did that happen? Spain had their top squad on the field and was trying to win. It's been their only loss in three years, but since then, Spain has been on such a tear, no other nation has managed a draw against them.
To their credit, the players are saying all the right things...stay focused, stay humble. I've already said Netherlands is my favorite to win the cup, but would not surprised one bit if La Furia Roja is right there in the final. They are just that good...simple enough.
June 16 vs. Switzerland - 9 a.m. CT (Torres may not play for Spanish, so Swiss may have a shot to keep it close)
June 21 vs. Honduras - 1:30 p.m. CT (Good luck Honduras, I like you guys, but lets just hope this match doesn't get too out of control)
June 25 vs. Chile - 1:30 p.m. CT (If Spanish need points, Chile is in trouble, i'm guessing Spain wont)
NEXT ON THE PITCH: BRAZIL