Today in 2022 World Cup Team Previews, we talk about Spain, Luis Enrique has picked a very interesting team with new faces and a few known faces missing.
World Cup appearances: 16th
Best finish: Champions (2010)
How they got here: Spain topped Group B in the UEFA WC qualifiers, collecting 19 points out of 24 possible. A defeat against Sweden and a draw vs. Greece were the only stains in a campaign where they also beat Georgia and Kosovo.
Coach: Luis Enrique (Spanish)
Strongest XI: (4-3-3) Unai Simón; César Azpilicueta, Eric García, Aymeric Laporte, Jordi Alba; Busquets, Koke, Pedri; Ferrán Torres, Álvaro Morata, Pedro Sarabia
Injuries: Mikel Oyarzabal (cruciate ligament, questionable), Aymeric Laporte (knee, questionable), Koke (thigh, questionable), Dani Olmo (ankle, questionable)
This is a team with variants and possibilities that seem to be endless. And if Luis Enrique's tinkering is spot on, Spain can go from dark horses to title contenders in a whip.
Our strongest XI for Spain is only a reference because Luis Enrique enjoys tweaking the squad depending on the opponent in front of him. On any day, Dani Carvajal or Marcos Alonso can be the starting fullbacks, as Iñigo Martínez and Pau Torres can be the CBs.
The range of possibilities in the middle is also vast. You never know who's going to be the pivot between Busquets and Rodri while Koke, Gavi and Carlos Soler are constantly fighting for a place in the squad.
One can imagine that the only untouchable in the XI should be "Pedri Potter."
The most significant issue they face is their weak front line. Spain still hypnotizes opponents by moving the ball from side to side infinite times, but you often wonder where the punch is. Just a number: along with Switzerland, Spain was the team with the fewest quantity of goals per game among those who finished first in their WC group (1.8) — far from England (3.9) or Germany (3.6), the leaders on that stat.
You can argue that Spain didn't face San Marino or Liechtenstein, but even taking away what England (15) and Germany (11) scored against them, respectively, they both still averaged over three goals per game.
Álvaro Morata is the leading striker and sometimes he can be magnificent. However, more often, he is not. Is there any other option? Yes, but Borja Iglesias, Gerard Moreno and Rodrigo – three possible candidates fighting for a spot in Qatar – still haven't given a performance able to electrify the fans.
Iago Aspas? El Príncipe de las Bateas could be the solution, but Luis Enrique doesn't call him up for some unclear reason. I understand not calling David de Gea (he stinks with his feet) and the Sergio Ramos/Gerard Piqué duo (they're not what they used to be), but Iago? He has constantly scored 14+ goals in LaLiga for Celta since the 2015-16 season.
Luis Enrique says he doesn't run enough to press against opposition defenders, but rumors in Spain indicate he's out because of something more personal: he would not support coach Juan Carlos Unzué – a friend of Luis Enrique – when Celta let him go at the end of the 2017-18 season. True or false? Who knows, but Aspas will be missed in Qatar.
Pedri will turn 20 during the World Cup. Yes, he is very young. But despite his age, the Barcelona star has become a mainstay in this squad, playing as if he was a veteran of a thousand battles. Pedri brings hope every time he touches the ball and will be the man to follow in the Spanish team as he did at Euro 2020.
Most Likely To Mess It All Up: I'm torn between three options:
What Will Make This A Good World Cup: Semi Finals
Bonus Prediction: Luis Enrique's press conferences are going to be fun to watch. A few heated arguments with journalists and plenty of snarky comments. Oh, Enrique's special walkie-talkies will be in action as well.
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