Spain fired up for World Cup

MORRIS DALLA COSTA, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:00 AM ET

Spain is the defending European Champion. It won the 2008 tournament in Austria and Switzerland.

Spain managed to shed the image of the most talented team never to have won anything.

One would think that would be enough to stop the questions from coming.

It's now the 2010 World Cup in South Africa and the question is, what have you done for me lately?

Despite the win in Europe, there is no relief from the questions. The questions will only intensify.

They won in Europe. But there was no Brazil, no Argentina and no African nations.

Can they beat those teams? Have they truly learned how to respond on the world stage?

The World Cup is the granddaddy of all the tournaments, the ultimate test for soccer nations.

Until the Spanish respond to the pressure of winning the World Cup, they will forever be a team that will be known as having the goods to win a World Cup, but never doing it.

The Spanish have the goods no questions about that.

They have more goods than any other team in this tournament. They have depth up and down the lineup especially in the skill positions. They have a wonderful combination of experience and youth. They have the swagger of a champion.

Coach Vicente del Bosque has a lot to work with.

There are issues. La Furia Roja, despite all its talent, has injury problems. Most are expected to clear by World Cup time but it's disconcerting for a team that is in its prime and ready for a breakthrough at the World Cup. Striker Fernando Torres, and midfielders Cesc Fabregas and Andres Iniesta have had significant injury problems. And even if they recover, the time off will impact their match fitness.

The question remains just how much game shape have they retained after lengthy layoffs.

With all the talent in Spain, Del Bosque had a difficult time making his selections for the squad.

The Spanish are beautiful to watch. Fabregas, Iniesta, Xavi Hernandez, Xabi Alonso, Sergio Busquets control the midfield with passing reminiscent of the Brazilians. They have a deadly duo of Torres and David Villa to finish off their work.

Torres is "El Nino" "The Kid" and Villa is "El Guaje," also The Kid but in a different Spanish dialect.

El Guaje is especially effective when he plays for Spain on the global stage. In 55 appearances for La Furia Roja, Villa has scored 36 goals.

They are no longer kids but their play has blunted the usual debate about whether Spanish legend Raul should get a farewell call-up for the national team.

Defensively, the Spanish have veteran presence in Carles Puyol, Sergio Ramos and youth in Gerard Pique of Barcelona. Iker Casillas and Jose Reina are experienced in goal.

If the Spanish are vulnerable though, it is on that backline where they are a little older and the defenders have played a lot of football.

Their ball possession style of play is helpful to that group. A team can't score if they don't have the ball.

Their biggest opponents could well be pressure and over-confidence. They have a target painted on their back.

Enter Del Bosque, Barcelona and the Champions League, a story about what the unpredictable game of football can do to a supposedly untouchable team.

"It's a reflection of what can happen to us and what football is all about. A team that is technically superior . . . a team absolutely dominating the situation (but) that is incapable of winning," Del Bosque told The Associated Press. "I think these warnings come at the right time and we cannot ignore them. He who doesn't want to see this is living outside of reality."

The reality is sobering for the Spanish.

Many people believe they will be holding the World Cup trophy at the end of this tournament.

It's the kind of pressure the Spanish will have to respond to if they ever want to be considered true champions and stop all the questions.


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