World Cup 2022 team preview: Spain
World Cup regulars looking to emerging stars for inspiration as they seek to rekindle the glory of their 2010 win.
Previous World Cup appearances: 16
Best finish: Winners (2010)
World Cup record: W30 D15 L18
Biggest win: 6-1 vs Bulgaria (1998)
Player to watch: Pedri
Current ranking: 7
Fixtures: Costa Rica (November 25), Germany (November 27), Japan (December 1)
A proven winner as manager, a squad replete with young stars and a World Cup-winning captain – Spain may not be the outright favourites in Qatar, but they are likely to be difficult to beat.
Spanish fans will expect their side to progress with relative ease out of a group containing Costa Rica and Japan, but a stern test awaits in the shape of four-time champions Germany, with whom Luis Enrique’s team will probably battle for the top spot.
Tournament regulars Spain have competed at every World Cup since 1978. Only five teams boast better overall appearance records – Brazil, Germany, Argentina, Italy and Mexico – with Qatar 2022 marking the Spaniards’ 16th involvement since the inaugural competition took place in Uruguay in 1930.
Spain’s World Cup win
In 2010, Spain stunned the tournament in South Africa with their possession-dominating Tiki-Taka football, topping their qualifying group before sweeping aside all challengers in the knockout phase to claim a historic first World Cup win. They had never previously made it past the quarter-finals.
An initially shaky start saw the Spaniards suffer a shock 1-0 opening round loss to Switzerland, but victories against Honduras and Chile steadied the campaign and saw them set up a round of 16 clash against neighbouring Portugal.
From there, the team proved unstoppable, beating Portugal, Paraguay, Germany and eventually the Netherlands in a tension-filled final decided by an extra-time winner – a run of games that saw them contest more than 360 minutes of elimination football without conceding a single goal.
The win crowned a golden period for Spain, who also claimed two European Championship trophies in 2008 and 2012.
Golden Boy Pedri
Despite it being his first World Cup campaign, Spanish hopes for glory in Qatar will likely pivot on the performances of Pedro González López, better known as Pedri, who turns 20 in November.
Widely touted in recent years as one of world football’s most promising wonderkids, the diminutive central midfielder has already affirmed his talent on the international stage and attracted major acclaim for his creative abilities.
He was awarded the prestigious Golden Boy trophy – handed to the standout player aged 21 or under in Europe – at the end of last year following a string of eye-catching performances for Spain at Euro 2020 and a breakthrough season at club side Barcelona which saw him win a regular place in the Spanish behemoth’s starting XI.
Pedri’s Barcelona boss, the legendary ex-Barcelona and Spain midfielder Xavi, has already compared the blossoming talent to fellow Spanish great Andres Iniesta for his positional intelligence and dazzling technical ability.
Spain is anticipated to battle it out with Germany for preeminence in Group E, but should comfortably secure one of the two qualifying spots ahead of Japan and Costa Rica.
Under the guidance of Enrique, a serial winner with Barcelona from 2014-17, and revered captain Sergio Busquets, part of the team that lifted the World Cup in 2010, a run to the final stages of the tournament is a distinct possibility.
Seven wins and two draws in their last 10 games mean Spain will start the World Cup on a confident footing.