June 18th, 2013
02:21 PM ET

Can anyone stop Spain at 2014 World Cup?

Andres Iniesta was outstanding for Spain in the 2-1 Confederations Cup win over Uruguay. (Getty Images).
Andres Iniesta was outstanding for Spain in the 2-1 Confederations Cup win over Uruguay. (Getty Images).

The final of the 2014 World Cup in Brazil’s Maracana stadium in Rio de Janeiro is just over a year away, but already it’s difficult to look any further than Spain as tournament winners.

That’s a statement likely to provoke guffaws from hosts Brazil, who hope home advantage will propel the South American side to a record-extending sixth title.

Argentina, who have the world’s best player Lionel Messi in their team, might also have something to say about that prediction.

History also suggests that Spain will have an uphill struggle trying to defend their title - a feat last achieved by Brazil in 1962.

All four World Cups held in South America so far were won by teams from that continent, which also provided two of the four losing finalists.

If you include the 1970 and 1986 tournaments, played under similar conditions in Mexico and won by Brazil and Argentina, then Latin American dominance stretches to six wins from six.

On Saturday, Luiz Felipe Scolari’s Brazil romped to a 3-0 win over Japan in their Confederations Cup opener, but that victory was nothing compared to the pummeling Spain inflicted on Uruguay on Sunday.

The 2-1 scoreline might suggest a close contest, but if this had been a boxing bout the referee would have stopped the game after Spain’s second goal such was the gulf in class between the two teams.

In the first half Spain enjoyed 78% of possession, with Pedro and Roberto Soldado scoring goals while Cesc Fabregas also hit the post, as the world champions created numerous other chances.

This against a side that are the Copa America champions, boasting the combined striking talents of Luis Suarez and Edison Cavani.

At one point in the first half, television cameras honed in on Suarez, capturing the Liverpool striker breathing heavily, despite having barely got near the ball as he vainly chased the Spanish ball-passing carousel.

"It's very difficult to generate any kind of danger when you don't touch the ball," said Suarez, who scored a late consolation with a curling free-kick.

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"Spain is the best side in the world. They are a candidate to win the World Cup," added the Uruguayan.

The way Spain pass a team into submission is akin to a metronome monotonously beating out the rhythm for an aspiring piano player. Except for the tick tock of the metronome, substitute Spain’s Tiki-taka passing game.

It is a style of football that oscillates between slow passing in the search for a team’s weakness, to rapid quick-fire exchanges when that chink is discovered.

The understanding the Spanish players have of time and space seems at times almost extraterrestrial. It’s not, instead predicated on repeated practice such as El Rondo - a passing game played in a constricted space.

At Euro 2012, Spain were accused of being “boring” as Vicente Del Bosque’s side landed a third successive major title.

There was nothing boring about Sunday’s win –- unless as a spectator you were turned off by the lack of resistance Uruguay managed to offer. It was that one-sided.

And this from a Spanish side that was missing key midfielder Xabi Alonso through injury, with Javi Martinez and Juan Mata starting on the bench, while the likes of goalkeeper David de Gea and attacking midfielder Isco were held back for Under-21 duty in Israel.

That duo faced Italy in UEFA’s Under-21 Championship final on Tuesday, a 4-2 victory which provided further evidence of Spain’s current strength in depth as the team - led by a hat-trick from captain Thiago Alcantara of Barcelona - defended the title won in 2011.

If Andres Iniesta was man-of-the-match in Recife, equally impressive were Fabregas and left-back Jordi Alba. That trio remorselessly exploited Uruguay’s right flank.

Yet Spain’s tendency to not finish off opponents will give the likes of Argentina and Brazil, as well as European sides such as Germany and Italy, a glimmer of hope that the 2014 World Cup will not end with La Roja successfully defending the title they won in South Africa.

"We should have scored more and maybe we were tired and also as a result of winning 2-0, that affects the players - they start to slow down and that is why we suffered at the end,” admitted Del Bosque.

Soldado might have scored against Uruguay, but there is a sense that the hunt for a striker to finish off Spain’s intricate passing moves goes on.

David Villa has struggled to return to form after suffering a broken leg, while Fernando Torres’ own search for the form that terrorized defenders when he was at Liverpool continues in vain.

However, Spain's opponents will first need to get the ball off Del Bosque's bewitching team if that weakness is to be exploited.

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Filed under:  Football
soundoff (43 Responses)
  1. idnarosirrah

    Reblogged this on What's On My Mind.

    June 18, 2013 at 2:36 pm | Reply
  2. Brady Leyer

    The Netherlands had an awful performance in Euro 2012, but don't count them out of the final 8. They are a dark horse team that should advance far into the tournament.

    June 18, 2013 at 4:03 pm | Reply
  3. jwalts

    Nothing about Germany? Really?

    June 18, 2013 at 5:02 pm | Reply
  4. Bruno

    I watched the sunday game. It´s really impressive how the Spanish squad manage to have ball possession. They defend and attack all in block, and the players have the ability to drible only when necessary, in a pure efficiency manner.
    In case of a Brazil x Spain final in this Confederations Cup, the hosters must be very inspired, hoping that Neymar makes some difference, and also cheer for the help of the crownd, in order to be able to beat the Spaniards.

    June 18, 2013 at 5:10 pm | Reply
  5. generalmola

    There is still another full year until the World Cup. Too early to tell and many great teams out there. They will probably be up there for sure, but we'll have to wait and see.

    June 18, 2013 at 5:12 pm | Reply
  6. Zico

    Uhm.... Do you watch soccer? You have Germany, Italy and the Netherlands from the EURO that have great chances. Brazil, Argentina in the CONMEBOL.... I would even consider throwing Colombia in that category, they have been playing great soccer. Also I could see Belgium and Croatia as great contenders based on their last few games (Not as good of a chance as the Dutch, Italy and Germany). To say that Spain has an easy road is extremely stupid, and shows your lack of knowledge about the game

    June 18, 2013 at 5:59 pm | Reply
  7. David

    Every time something like this is posted people ask about other teams. It's very simple, in an article about Spain, it is normal to talk about Spain and not other teams. Add to that the fact that Spain is hands down, by far, not even close, the best team in the world. Nobody comes close. They win even on bad days. No one can get the ball away from them and anyone that tries to play them directly gets scorched. The comprehensive beat down of Italy (who beat the much vaunted Germans) showed what this team can do when they turn it up to 100% . Seriously, they beat Italy 4-0 in a major competitive final. That same team (with one or two changes) will be in Brazil next year. It's tough not to have them pegged to win it again.

    June 18, 2013 at 7:26 pm | Reply
    • stanknasty

      Spain beat Italy 4-0 because Italy had only 2 days rest after a major game...that's what killed them... the next time they met in the Confederations Cup it was a draw 0-0. Let's look at the circumstances around the final result. Spain is not unbeatable....remember they don't have Messi working for their team...he's Argentinian.

      September 27, 2013 at 9:54 pm | Reply
  8. Login

    Can anyone stop Spain in 2014... really! The obvious European powerhouse isn't even an afterthought? Guess Germany doesn't rate. Don't let the recent loss to the US lull you into a false sense of security.

    June 18, 2013 at 9:37 pm | Reply
  9. Latino

    The current Uruguayan squad is a poor standard to measure Spain: Uruguay is not even qualifying for next year Cup at this point! The two best South American teams today are Argentina and Colombia, and Brazil comes a distant third. Also in Europe, Germany, Italy, France or England are able to beat Spain. Spain is just one more candidate but far away from the all powerfull side that you suggest.

    June 18, 2013 at 10:13 pm | Reply
  10. Chopper1

    Germany has proven its discipline and set plays can overcome Spain as seen in the Champions league where Bayern beat barcelona 4-0? and real Madrid also got beaten by Borussia...

    June 19, 2013 at 2:54 am | Reply
  11. Savittri

    Del Bosque claimed the players were perhaps too tired toward the end of the match against Uruguay. Why on earth did he keep those other fresh legs on the bench? The squad has so many excellent subs they could form another threatening starting 11 elsewhere.

    June 19, 2013 at 7:19 am | Reply
  12. mfaridazis

    Ask maurinho how to beat the spain.

    June 19, 2013 at 1:58 pm | Reply
  13. Glauco Ortolano

    I believe that it would have been easier just to say that no European national team has ever won a World Cup in the Western Hemisphere. After all, the United States is also part of the Western Hemisphere. Out of the 7 World Cups held in the Western Hemisphere all 7 cups were won by teams of the Western hemisphere. Brazil has broken the European hegemony of World Cups held in Europe when they won the World Cup by beating the hosts Sweden 5-2 in 1958.

    Spain has an outstanding squad this year but winning a World Cup in Brazil will not be an easy task. Brazil has far more experience winning Cups than any other nation. Brazil has won 5 FIFA World Cups and 3 FIFA Confederation Cups. Spain, on the other hand, has won only one World Cup and no Confederation Cup. Thus, one may say, that Brazil is beating Spain 8-1. My prediction is that Brazil will win the Confederation Cup this year and the World Cup next year widening the gap to 10-1 between the titles won by Brazil and Spain.

    June 20, 2013 at 2:02 am | Reply
  14. NapOrsoCapo

    Football will stop Spain, will americans ever understand this game?

    June 20, 2013 at 2:42 am | Reply
  15. ezanih

    The key to Spain (and Barca) performing well is their fitness. I would say they are 2 times fitter than other football teams. And their passing and accuracy is sublime. Our Malaysian national team will be playing Barcelona in an exhibition friendly on August 10 and I velieve the scoreline will be significantly different than the normal 5-6 or 6-0 thrashing we get from the normal pre-season tour of the top Premier League football clubs like Chelsea or Arsenal. Maybe 10-0 ?

    June 20, 2013 at 9:35 am | Reply
  16. ezanih

    For the Spain vs Uruguay match, the first goal was a result of an Uruguayan defender sticking his feet out to a mid-distance shoot from a Spanish player and it deflected into the left corner when the goalkeeper was diving right. So it was a deflected goal and for all Spain's possession, the fairer score should have been 1-1 after a sublime curler from Luis Suarez just outside the box.

    June 20, 2013 at 9:40 am | Reply
  17. nahuaque figuerense

    south america exports more players than every other continent, actually in the most succecfull leagues we have more players than the home nation so to come here and say its gonna be spain winning for sure on brazils turf its outrageous my dear CNN.
    Came on lets stop this frenzy and respect the history and its fans.

    The last world cup spain won every game 1×0 and robben almost took it home to mechanic orange so please its not like they are killing 5×0 every game man

    June 21, 2013 at 6:01 pm | Reply
  18. Dr. Cajetan Coelho

    Brazil versus Uruguay and Spain versus Italy. None of them can be ruled out from mounting the top most space on the narrow podium. Wishing the semi-finalists all the very best in their efforts to prove the pundits wrong.

    June 24, 2013 at 6:30 am | Reply
  19. rosh

    Yeah, Spain have been very good at running teams mad with the possession play BUT are vulnerable as they do not score enough goals (unless its someone like Tahiti). Even in the last world cup; had Robben not fluffed at least two clear chances this article would not have surfaced. They have a real problem that has not been exploited by other teams of this decade who are really short of real class ( or at least have been). I expect either Germany or Brazil (if they get their team right) to upstage the Spaniards.

    June 24, 2013 at 6:54 am | Reply
  20. johnny

    One word: Germany

    June 24, 2013 at 8:47 am | Reply
  21. Eduardo

    Team Spain is playing the best soccer of the last 30 years. But World Cup is a single event that depends much upon factors like how players will emerge from their national leagues just before the WC in Brazil next year? How the refs will behave during decisive matches? Usually from the round of 16 on, the matches become much more physical than talent-driven. So, how stars will behave in those physical intensive moments? Etc., etc. etc.

    June 24, 2013 at 5:39 pm | Reply
  22. Cristina Hontanilla

    I don't think Brazil will stop Spain at the final!! I'm sure there're still some more matches and finals to Spain to achieve... now they run the world in football..not Brazil anymore... I'm sure they'll come back but not next Sunday at Maracaná!

    June 28, 2013 at 12:12 pm | Reply
  23. Marizete


    July 1, 2013 at 12:44 am | Reply
  24. Marizete

    The Giant rised! Beautiful party at Maracanã this night

    July 1, 2013 at 12:50 am | Reply
  25. Rômulo

    Brasil !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    July 1, 2013 at 12:58 am | Reply
  26. Glauco Ortolano

    Brazil wins their 3rd straight Confederation Cup with a sound 3X0 victory over Spain. That enough to tell me which team is the best in the world.

    July 1, 2013 at 1:05 am | Reply
  27. Renato

    WELL>.....for a stupid article like this the best answer is 3×0 !!!

    July 1, 2013 at 1:14 am | Reply
  28. Lucas

    Looks like Spain got put back in its place.

    July 1, 2013 at 2:29 am | Reply
  29. Marcelo

    Brazil is the best of the world again...Spain is gone...3 X 0...

    July 1, 2013 at 2:41 am | Reply
  30. Amanda Smith

    So Cristina Hontanilla...I guess you were wrong....lol.....

    July 1, 2013 at 3:41 am | Reply
  31. Julio

    I think it is time to write a new article! A final match in Maracanã was too much even for Spain!... O Campeão voltou!!!

    July 1, 2013 at 5:14 am | Reply
  32. chuma Nwachukwu-david

    the spanish era in football has come and now gone! club level? the germans took care of that and on the national team level brazil. its very funny when people think it will last for ever cos tiki-taka is based on age and speed,the spanish team is aging same as barcelona and teams have learnt how to shut them down just as mourinho told chelsea to do in the champions league after he led real madrid to a resounding win at the camp nou! its interesting but i prefer the bayern munich/chelsea and brazil style of soccer.WELL DONE BRAZIL-SAMBA IS BACK! TIKI-TAKA IS OUT!

    July 2, 2013 at 4:41 pm | Reply
  33. Guilherme Rocha

    You guys really don't understand what that five stars at yellow t shirt means. Five World Cups!!!! What's Spain in football history? So respect Brazil (5) Italy (4) Germany (3) Argentina (2).

    July 2, 2013 at 6:07 pm | Reply
  34. tantwice

    They're all great players and two of the greatest team nation in the world but I guess its just a matter losing and winning. I do respect Spain..better luck next time team. For brazil, you really did great again. We salute you neymar..This guy is awesome..great!

    July 3, 2013 at 10:39 am | Reply
  35. wana

    sorry for the lost Spain.. Im still your big fan.. The next time will gonna beat them up. so much for brazil..

    July 3, 2013 at 10:44 am | Reply
  36. Yuri

    Spain, Spain, Spain...it's over...Brazil showed them how football is played.

    July 10, 2013 at 12:55 pm | Reply
  37. noriko

    My money on Brazil on 2014

    July 30, 2013 at 3:48 am | Reply
  38. Georges Jean

    After the humiliating defeat in the Confederations Cup, I don't think that Spain can boast on winning the World Cup 2014. To be trashed 3-0 in the final isn't indicative that Spain is favorite anymore! Germany, Netherlands, France, Italy, Belgium, Uruguay...play more convincingly than Spain!

    August 1, 2013 at 1:39 am | Reply
    • Sabine

      Tori – That is terrible story. So happy you had such a great oumctoe. So what was there reasoning behind not letting you have access to begin with? Because you were working there? Do you have to get a special visa to photograph a wedding there? We aren't allowed to work there as Americans, but I would have thought photographing a wedding was like writing or other arts. Interested to hear what you have to do to be legit.

      May 6, 2014 at 9:05 pm | Reply
  39. Gemu

    It all depends on who meets who at which stage. They all have weaknesses, some teams can take Spain while others can't. My 2 cents say that Brazil – Germany will be the real final, no matter what stage they meet. Spain will off course also be a main contender while Italy, Colombia and Belgium are the outsiders. The Dutch team is not the same as in 2012 or 2010. Their defense sucks, against any of the mentioned teams they will loose. And Croatia will most likely not be there in 2014. Maybe France will be the unexpected contender this year? Its Belgium-France next week, I'm curious to see them play. Its a friendly but they're neighbors so that makes it a bit less friendly I hope 😉

    August 9, 2013 at 8:07 pm | Reply
  40. Georges Jean

    Yes, Group stage is a factor in any major World-class competition! To me, neither Brazil nor Spain has a superb defense in the attacking line. Portugal has, basically, a better defensive formation than both Brazil and Spain! While they may get to the 2014 semi-finals, I think that Germany, Netherlands, and Argentina will triumph in the semi-finals; Germany is probably the strong squad who will lift the crown in the 2014 World Cup! This Brazil is not the likes of 2002, wherein Ronaldinho, Ronaldo, Roberto Carlos proved themselves to be tough players!

    August 12, 2013 at 8:07 pm | Reply
  41. Tom

    Watch out for Belgium: Courtois, Mignolet, Kompany, Alderweireld, Vertonghen, Vermaelen, Fellaini, De Bruyne, Witsel, Dembele, Chadli, Hazard, Lukaku, Mertens, Mirallas, Benteke, ... The list is really impressive!

    September 3, 2013 at 12:23 am | Reply

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