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Spain World Cup 2018 team profile: Ones to watch, best bets and more

All you need to know about Spain ahead of the World Cup in Russia
All you need to know about Spain ahead of the World Cup in Russia

Spain have disappointed in the last two major tournaments, but can they get back to their best in Russia?

Spain Factfile

  • FIFA rankings: 6th
  • Sky Bet outright odds: 11/2
  • Best Bet: Isco top Spain scorer 11/2
  • World Cup appearances: 14
  • Best finish: Winners (2010)
  • Nickname: La Furia Roja (The Red Fury)

Coach - Julen Lopetegui: There is a hint of Gareth Southgate in Spain’s manager as the former goalkeeper has been given the chance after working with the national youth teams, steering the U19s and U21s to European Championship success. The former Porto coach is also not afraid to bring in new names and youngsters into the squad.

Legend - Xavi: You don't have to go too far back to find Spain's best ever player. Talisman, lynchpin, maestro - these are all words used to describe the midfield playmaker who helped that insanely talented Spanish side to a hat-trick of international tournaments with the 2010 World Cup sandwiched in between two European Championship victories.

Andres Iniesta may top him as Spain's most successful player, but Xavi was the guiding hand behind that team; setting the tempo, keeping possession and making sure they kept ticking over, waiting for that killer pass that he was more than likely going to play.

Star man - Sergio Ramos: Plenty of the flair forwards may grab the headlines but the skipper is the emotional leader of this team and brings a wealth of experience to his role. He's Spain's second-most capped player and has already won the World Cup in 2010 and two European Championships in 2008 and 2012.

Did you know? Spain are unbeaten under new coach Lopetegui, who was linked with the Wolves job before replacing Vicente del Bosque after Euro 2016.

Fun fact: Spain jointly hold the record for the longest international unbeaten run after going 35 games without defeat between 2006-2009. They also put up a record 15-game winning streak during that spell.

Qualifying: Cruised through Group G as winners mainly due to taking four points from Italy, who then failed to make it to Russia. An Isco-inspired Spain beat Italy 3-0 in what was effectively the decider and finished five points above the Azzurri in the final standings.

Group B fixtures: Portugal (7pm, June 15, Sochi), Iran (7pm, June 20, Kazan), Morocco (7pm, June 25, Kaliningrad)

Spain Squad

Goalkeepers: David de Gea (Manchester United), Pepe Reina (Napoli), Kepa Arrizabalaga (Athletic Bilbao).

Defenders: Jordi Alba (Barcelona), Nacho Monreal (Arsenal), Alvaro Odriozola (Real Sociedad), Nacho Fernandez (Real Madrid), Dani Carvajal (Real Madrid), Gerard Pique (Barcelona), Sergio Ramos (Real Madrid), Cesar Azpilicueta (Chelsea).

Midfielders: Sergio Busquets (Barcelona), Isco (Real Madrid), Thiago Alcantara (Bayern Munich), David Silva (Manchester City), Andres Iniesta (Barcelona), Saul Niguez (Atletico Madrid), Koke (Atletico Madrid).

Forwards: Marco Asensio (Real Madrid), Iago Aspas (Celta Vigo), Diego Costa (Atletico Madrid), Rodrigo Moreno (Valencia), Lucas Vazquez (Real Madrid).

Spain Profile

For a team with such recent success and one that's vying for favourtism, Spain actually arrive at the World Cup after a couple of poor recent showings at major tournaments, having fallen at the group stage of the 2014 World Cup and last 16 at Euro 2016.

The team that won three major tournaments in a row has been evolving slowly and has a new, relatively inexperienced coach at the helm in Lopetegui - there's plenty to prove heading to Russia.

Spain life the World Cup in 2010
Spain lift the World Cup in South Africa in 2010

A strong showing in qualifying though shows that they will again be a force to reckoned with and the betting also reflects that many see them as the team to beat alongside Brazil. If Lopetegui can get the balance right between old and new - which he has indicated with bold omissions from his squad - then they'll have a serious chance.

Who to watch out for

This squad is jam-packed with talent - David Silva has been superb for Manchester City this season and he'll be pulling the strings while Andres Iniesta will look to go out on a high in what will be his last World Cup.

Choosing Diego Costa to lead the line up front over Alvaro Morata could be key to Spain's success, while Isco could well be the one to watch if he gets anywhere near the performance he put in when demolishing Italy in qualifying.

Isco scored twice and ran the show against the Italians, while he scored a hat-trick in a 6-1 thrashing of Argentina in a friendly this year. He could turn out to be one of the big stars of the tournament if he produces that form.

Although they've got plenty going forward, David de Gea is arguably the best goalkeeper in the world and having him as a safety net at the back must be a wonderful feeling for the Spain rearguard.

How did they qualify?

New coach Lopetegui hit the ground running as his team battered Liechtenstein 8-0 in his first competitive game in charge of the Spanish side. But all eyes were on Isco a year later as he ran the show in their huge showdown with Italy.

The Real Madrid man took the Italians apart in a 3-0 victory for Spain that effectively wrapped up the group and put a huge dent in Italy that they never really recovered from.

What will I hear when they play?

Let's face it, Spain have had plenty to shout about over the last decade or so with those three major tournament wins in a row, and they're always a vocal band of supporters with plenty of songs, including...

“¡Yo soy español, español, español!�� (“I’m Spanish, Spanish, Spanish!”) - Heard during their 2010 World Cup win.

“¡A por ellos, oé!” (“Let’s beat them”) - This has been around for a while and is a staple of the Spanish fans.

“¡Que viva España!” (“Long live Spain!”) – A classic based on Manolo Escobar's original song.

Any interesting facts about Spain?

Like many nations, the Spanish love to celebrate any big wins out on the streets of the capital, with the fountains of Cibeles and Neptuno often draped with thousands of fans following Real or Atletico Madrid victories.

For the national team, fans dressed in red known as the Red Tide flock to the streets to celebrate, which became a regular occurrence when Spain were dominating the world of football.

Politics and football don't usually mix but the 2017 Catalan independence referendum threatened to cause tensions within the national side, especially those from the region. Barcelona defender Gerard Pique suffered abuse while training with Spain at their Madrid headquarters as a result.

Any famous football moments?

Plenty - and all pretty recently as well with their astonishing run of success starting with their win at Euro 2008 and going through to the World Cup triumph in 2010 and defending their European title in 2012.

The World Cup in South Africa was the undoubted highlight though, coming as it did with Spain having to deal with a huge amount of expectation on their shoulders.

It was not football at its glorious best as the Netherlands were brutal opposition during a game that contained 14 bookings and a red card, but Andres Iniesta slotted home a deserved winner as Spain finally conquered the world.

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Most Read Football

We celebrate the best bets that have come in over weekend1

Weekend winners: Candy from a baby

One racing punter landed the Balmoral tricast while another bagged all five winners in a Lucky 31 as we round up some of the big weekend winners.

Our best bets for this week's Monday Night Football2

Arsenal to make it ten in a row

Monday Night Football this week comes from the Emirates as Arsenal take on Leicester. We have 4/1 and 13/1 best bets.

Check out today's Paper Talk3

Sunday's Paper Talk

City eye £40m Ake, Hazard set to make Premier League history and Conte heading to Real Madrid. All in today's newspapers.

Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates for Juventus4

WATCH: Ronaldo brings up 400

Cristiano Ronaldo grabbed another slice of footballing history as he became the first player to score 400 goals in Europe's top five leagues with his latest strike for Juventus.

Dominic Calvert-Lewin celebrates scoring for Everton5

Super subs win it late for Everton

Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Cenk Tosun scored in the last three minutes and Jordan Pickford saved a penalty in Everton's dramatic 2-0 win over Crystal Palace.

Football Tips

Our best bets for this week's Monday Night Football

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Sporting Life Tipping Record

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