Spain in a pressure cooker

Morris Dalla Costa, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 7:40 PM ET

Now that the Jose Mourinho story has reached its conclusion, the focus of a nation, and its media, will zoom in on Spain’s preparation for its World Cup.

Rightly or wrong, there is the expectation that the World Cup in South Africa is Spain’s to lose.

Yes, there is Brazil and England and Argentina in the mix but the defending European champions have more talent and pressure than any other team in the tournament.

Spain’s coach Vincente Del Bosque has been fortunate. The voracious Spanish media has been focused on the soap opera that is Inter Milan coach Jose Mourinho.

The Portuguese Special One won the Champions League title last Saturday and since the win his dance with Real Madrid has been headline news in the Spanish press.

But the dance is now over and Mourinho will be the new coach of Real Madrid.

Page 8 in the newspaper for the national team will return to being Pages 1 and 2 and 3 and more. The Spanish press take a back seat to no one when it comes to creating news.

One (twisted, misrepresented) phrase or (twisted, misrepresented) comment can set off a firestorm of unimaginable proportion. It is an atmosphere where getting a story has different rules.

With Spain having shed the image of under-achievers with their win in Europe in 2008, the expectations for this team are enormous.

With Mourinho out of the way the Spanish’s team daily existence will we answering questions about their ultimate win in the World Cup.

But have they really shed their image of under-achievers? For a team with so much talent and the success in the Euro tournament, there are a lot of questions being asked of Spain.

The Spanish are learning that winning doesn’t guarantee you’ve reached the top of the mountain. There is always another plateau and another peak to reach.

They are finding out that while winning Euro brings great prestige, it only grants you the status of European champion. You only shed the image of loser when you win a World Cup, especially when you enter a tournament as favourites.

There are some teams that would be thrilled to be in the Spaniards shoes.

Check out a partial list of the 23 players going to the World Cup: Iker Casillas, Álvaro Arbeloa, Joan Capdevila, Gerard Pique, Carles Puyol, Sergio Ramos, Xabi Alonso, Cesc Fábregas, Xavi, Andrés Iniesta, David Silva, Fernando Torres and David Villa.

Who wouldn’t want to be in those shoes? Who wouldn’t want a target sewn squarely on your chest with every team and player, having nothing to lose to the pre-tournament world champs, taking the field prepared to sell out everything they have in order to beat you.

This is the tournament where we’ll see whether Spain has developed the steel needed to be a great champion year in and year old. If they do make a great run, they will have earned that respect.

Spain has to first overcome a series of injuries to several key players. Torres and Fabregas in particular but several others included Iniesta and Alonso have been banged up.

Welcome to the big league boys. The World Cup trophy is there for your taking, but you have to navigate a minefield of angst, pressure and the unfamiliar to hold it.


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