It's been 12 years since Spain won their maiden World Cup in South Africa. Can they add a second title this winter in Qatar?
FOOTBALL NOW is a show that brings to light some of the global game's biggest issues, challenges, and debates.
It's been 12 years since Spain won their maiden World Cup trophy in South Africa, and a new generation of Spanish superstars are hoping to repeat the trick in Qatar this winter.
The days of seeing legends like Xavi, Andreas Iniesta, Sergio Ramos, and Iker Casillas play for their national side are long gone. Still, their achievements for La Roja will serve as inspiration for the new young talents that will represent their country at this year's tournament.
The 2010 World Cup is famous for the 'tiki-taka' style of football. The technique is based on long spells of possession and short passes with sudden movement to tire opponents out. It was executed to perfection by the talented Spanish national squad and Pep Guardiola's Barcelona team of the same era, which included many players representing Spain at that time.
Twelve years later, the game of football has moved on. It is more intense, teams are better equipped to defend against this style, and Spain have had to adapt to outclass their opponents.
"I think that there is an upgrade on the tiki-taka," explained Spanish football expert Alvaro Romeo. "I think tiki-taka was enough to win tournaments in 2010, but right now, the intensity is becoming increasingly important. And Spain has a lot of intensity. Without the ball, they know how to put the intensity on the pressure to get the ball back. It's not gegenpressing style like Liverpool, but they are trying to get there."
So, can this Spain team implement this new style of counter-pressing and make it count in the tournament in Qatar?
Spain's group/route to Lusail
Spain starts the tournament as the seeded side in Group E, which also contains Costa Rica, Germany and Japan.
The standout game that catches the eye in the group stage will be Spain vs Germany. The two nations famously faced off in the European Championships 2008 final in Austria, with Spain winning 1-0. But both sides have been underperforming at tournaments. Germany lost to England in Euro 2020 and were eliminated from the 2018 World Cup in the group stages. The pair are the favourites to go through to the next round, but Costa Rica and Japan will provide stern challenges as they look to regain their form in major tournaments.
If they win the group, Spain will face the runner-up of Group F, which includes Belgium, Canada, Morocco, and Croatia, at Al Janoub Stadium. If Germany does well in Group E, Spain might only finish runners-up. If this happens, Luis Enrique's team will go to Education City stadium and face Group F winners, including Belgium.
Should Spain progress, they could meet Brazil and Portugal from Groups G or H in the quarter-final. To reach the finals at Lusail, they may need to bypass France, the current champions.
There was a time when Spain's regular squad was full of the world's best players. While the quality hasn't been as good, there are still some excellent players and a good mix of youth and experience. It will most likely be the last tournament for the captain, Sergio Busquets. He was integral to the squads that won the 2010 World Cup and Euro 2012. He will want to leave his mark on the world stage one last time after making 138 appearances for the national team so far.
At the other end of the age spectrum is one of Spain's most talked about young talents. At just 18 years old, Barcelona's Gavi has already made 11 appearances for the national team. After a glittering 23-year career in the position, Barcelona manager Xavi knows how hard it is to play in the centre-forward spot. Spain fans will have their eyes on Gavi, who could be a future footballing legend.
There are a lot of questions surrounding Spain's performance at this year's World Cup. Can they match the intensity of the other favourites and advance to the later stages of this tournament? Or will this be seen as an experience for the younger players to thrive on later in their careers? If Spain make it out of their group, they believe they can make a big impact in Qatar.