Nickname: La Furia Roja

World Ranking: 1

World Cup history: Defending champions with 14 World Cup appearances

La Roja Furia, as Spain are affectionately known, go into the 2014 World Cup tournament as defending champions. Before they won the World Cup for their time in 2010, Spain was largely known to be haunted by their ‘quarterfinal jinx,’ which had, for years, prevented them from going beyond this stage of the tournament. However, tables turned when they visited South Africa and broke their notorious hoodoo. Despite an impressive winning streak en route to South Africa, their campaign got off to a wrong footing when they lost their opening match to Switzerland. However, they would go on to make history by becoming the first team to lose their opening match and go on to win the biggest soccer tournament in the world when they beat Netherlands in the finals.

En route to Brazil, Spain had an inspiring campaign in their qualifiers. They won six of their qualifying matches, only drawing two.

Barcelona striker, Pedor Rodriguez and Manchester City striker, Alvaro Negredo are most likely to be the two strikers La Roja will have to rely on

Their defence proved solid, letting in only three goals. Sergio Ramos and Gerard Pique have proven tough to beat in the defence. Jordi Alba has also grown to be an integral member of the Spanish defence and his ability to initiate and join in attacks, which is capped by his ability to score a few himself, will undoubtedly come in very handy for the Spanish side. Some critics have pointed out at the need for new blood in the Spanish midfield to supplement the like of midfield maestros like Adre Iniesta and Xavi Hernandes.

But the likes of David Silva and Jesus Navas have on many occasions shown to have the pace to supplement the already quality-rich midfield, which also boasts the likes of Cesc Fabregas, Xabi Alonso, Sergio Busquets, to name, but a few. It is, however, their strike force that should come under scrutiny going to the tournament by the standards. Only 14 goals were recorded, which – while they were good enough to see La Roja top their group – was not so impressive by their standards. David Villa and Fernando Torres have not shown the same prowess upfront as they did in years gone by. Barcelona striker, Pedor Rodriguez and Manchester City striker, Alvaro Negredo are most likely to be the two strikers La Roja will have to rely on.

The team is known for their titi-taka football, which was strongly made Spain’s trademark style under the tutelage of Vincente Del Bosque. For them it’s all about possession, and pass precision and it has come as no surprise that they have averaged the highest possession figure in the qualifications at 74.3%, which is likely to be the strongest point in Brazil. With an average of 849 passes per game, they will certainly have opposition chase them for the ball. The only time such an approach seem to waver is when they face oppositions who are just as good at retaining possession and can place with a lot of sustained pace throughout the match. In this regard, Spain’s loss to Brazil in the Confederations Cup and Barcelona’s loss to Bayern Munich in the Champions League against oppositions that used pace and were equally good in possession retention, should come to mind.

Key Players: Jordi Alba, Xavi Hernandez, Andre Iniesta and Pedro Rodriguez

Know Your Coach: Vincente Del Bosque

Since he took over the Spanish coaching reins in 2008, Vincente Del Bosque, has led La Roja Furia to World Cup success, defended the Euro Cup in 2012. 21 players, including the likes of Juan Mata, Gerard Pique, Jordi Alba, Sergio Busquets, Thiago Alcantara, Javi Martinez, just to name but a few, were promoted to the Spanish senior team under his tutelage.

The former Spanish player, who played for Real Madrid and appeared 18 times for the Spanish national team, is one of the most decorated coaches in Spain. Before he was appointed Spanish coach, Del Bosque led Real Madrid to one of the club’s most fruitful tenures, leading the Spanish giants to two Champions League titles, two domestic La Liga titles, a Spanish Super Cup, a UEFA Super Cup, the Intercontinental Cup. He also finished in the last four of the UEFA Champions League every year he was in charge.

He is married with three children, two sons, one of who has a down syndrome, and a daughter.

Del Bosque says Spain has an obligation to perform. Click below to watch the video:

Country Profile:

Spain is commonly known for its Flamenco music, dance and bull fights. The word Spain is derived from the Roman word Hispania meaning the land of rabbits. Spain is called España in Spanish. The country is one of the best holiday destinations in Europe because of its old monuments, architecture, over 8000 Km of beaches and 4,964 km of coastline. In Ibiza, an island in the Mediterranean Sea, 79 kilometres off the coast of the city of Valencia, in eastern Spain, tourists spend about 1430 million euros each year. Spanish is the second most spoken language in the world and is spoken in 44 countries.

Spain is European country closest to Africa. The country has the lowest population in density in Western Europe. It is one of the football loving nations in the world. Every town in the country has a football pitch and a team. There is also indoor football played in different parts of the country. Spanish football fans are among the most enthusiastic and dedicated in Europe. The fans also gamble through a system called Quiniela.

The country’s football is dominated by the rivals Real Madrid and Barcelona. Real Madrid has over 228 million supporters. Statistics by the LFP Company in Spain show that one of the La Liga teams, Granada CF has average attendees of 90.4% for their matches. La Liga stadiums have an overall average of 71.2% capacity. This has been attributed to the poor economic situation and unemployment in the country. Spain’s unemployment rate was at 26.0% in 2012 and 25.6% in 2013. The country’s economy is based on agriculture. Spain produces 44 % of the world’s olive oil, wheat, barley, vegetables and citrus fruit. The country has one of the most vibrant democracies in the world. Same sex marriages were legalised in 2005.

• Full name: Kingdom of Spain
• Population: 46.7 million (UN 2012)
• Capital: Madrid
• Area: 505,988 sq km (195,363 sq miles)
• Major languages: Spanish (Castilian), Catalan and its variant Valencian, Gallego (Galician), Euskera (Basque)
• Major religion: Christianity
• Life expectancy: 79 years (men), 85 years (women) (UN)
• Monetary unit: 1 euro = 100 cents
• Main exports: Transport equipment, agricultural products
• GNI per capita: US $30,930 (World Bank, 2011)
• Internet domain: .es
• International dialling code: +34

– By Sipho Kekana and Lerato Matlala