Wednesday, Jun. 02, 2010


Manager: Vicente del Bosque

Best: Fourth (1950)

Together with Brazil, the exceptionally talented Spanish squad goes into the World Cup as hot favorites to lift the Jules Rimet trophy on July 11. Their emphatic and stylish performances to become European champions in 2008 laid to rest their 44 year reputation as serial chokers, and they have one of the best records of any international side in recent years. And then there's the roster: Liverpool's Fernando Torres, widely rated as the world's best striker, partnered by David Villa of Valencia who tops the wish list of coaches across Europe. Midfield options that include Barcelona's Xavi and Andrés Iniesta, Real Madrid's Xabi Alonso and Arsenal's Cesc Fabregas. And defenders of the highest order, such as Sergio Ramos and Carles Puyol, which give Spain's squad a fantasy football feel. But Torres, Fabregas, Villa, Iniesta and Xavi have all been plagued by injury problems, casting doubt over their conditioning. Still, with a squad as galactic as the one available to coach Vincente del Bosque, even having just two or three of those players firing on all cylinders could be enough to make it to the final.

Player to watch: Fernando Torres. The pace, skill and power of the Liverpool hit-man is a joy to behold, except for those tasked with defending against him.