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World Cup Watch: Spain

     The 2010 World Cup Champions  hobbled their way through a poor 2014 campaign.

     Spain will look to repeat erase the memories of a 5-1 defeat to the Netherlands and 2-0 loss at the hands of Chile, who both will be absent from Russia 2018, with the tales of their second World Cup triumph.

     “La Roja” (The Red) performed well in the most recent round of friendlies with a 1-1 draw against Germany and a 6-1 thrashing of the 2014 Runner Ups, Argentina.

     The Spainards played well in both contests converting chances agaisnt Argentina, and seeing a fair share of the ball against the defending World Champions.

     Spain is led by a Julen Lopetegui, a manager who has worked around the squad, and coached many of the team as they grew through the international developmental process. The team trusts, believes and buys in to the current manager. An advantage that the team severely lacked in World Cup 2014 and Euro 2016.

     Spain features David De Gea as the top option to wear the gloves. The 27-year-old churns out consistent performances for Manchester United and is arguably the keeper in the best form at this moment.

     In front of De Gea is an expansive defense that has a history of winning games.

     Captained by Sergio Ramos, Spain is a team that will not allow many goals. Paired with Ramos, Gerard Piqué presents experience and poise on the back line.

     Along the defense, options outside are not sure of Barcelona and Real Madrid starts, mainly Jordi Alba and Dani Carvajal.

     Outside of the starting defense, Spain does not offer much in terms of depth, but the style of play and midfield pool does not call for a strong defensive presence.

     Spain’s largest threats come from a midfield that can play in a number of ways, and with a number of players.

     Spain’s midfield is headlined by Real Mardid’s Isco and Nacho, Barcelona’s Andrés Iniesta, Sergio Busquets and Sergi Roberto.

     Individual names in the Spanish midfield stand out as well. Chelsea’s Marco Asensio and Bayern Munich’s Thiago Alcántara are having career seasons, while veterans like Juanfran, Juan Mata, Javi Martínez and Cesc Fàbergas can push out strong performances, both offensively and defensively, if called upon.

     However, España are not flawless. While the golden era of Spain may not be fully deteriorated, it is deflated over time. Players such as Koke, David Silva, Lucas Vázquez and Saúl Ñíguez are not as reliable as the old guard might have been.

     Spain will also enter the tournament pushing a heap of pressure onto the striker of the team. Options for the Spanish number nine are Diego Costa, 29, Pedro 30, Nolito 3, who have all entered the latter stages of historic careers, and an inconsistent Álvaro Morata, of Chelsea.

     Spain, despite, questions about goal scorers, took fill control of their World Cup Qualifying group, with nine wins and one draw.

     The Spaniards only falter was a 1-1 draw in Turin, Italy in late 2016. The reds responded by besting the four-time Champions 2-0 in the next game. Spain’s defensive flexed their skill by allowing only three goals through the entire qualifying process.

     The squad finished with a +33 goal differential through 10 games in the European stage.

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