We preview the 2010 FIFA World Cup, set for June 11-July 11 in South Africa.
Appearance: 13th overall, ninth consecutive
Last time there: 2006, lost in second round
Best performance: Quarterfinals (1934, 1986, 1994, 2002)
There isn't much not to like here. Spain won Euro 2008. They have won 33 of their last 34 competitive -- i.e. Euro 2008 qualifying and tournament, 2009 FIFA Confederations Cup, World Cup qualifying, etc. -- matches.
In the qualifying stage for South Africa, Spain went 10-0, outscoring opponents 28-5. Only in their final match (a 5-2 win over Bosnia-Herzegovina) did they allow more than one goal. Half of the matches were won by more than one goal.
In short, Spain trampled their qualifying group.
They are likely to trample their World Cup group, too. Fernando Torres, David Villa, and Juan Mata combine to form a lethal front line. The midfield features uber-talented players like Xavi, David Silva, Xabi Alonso, Cesc Fabregas, and Andres Iniesta. The Spaniards are so good in the middle that Fabregas sometimes will come off the bench, and he's one of the most talented midfielders in the world.
Gerard Pique and Carles Puyol key the defense, which often leaves little for goalkeeper Iker Casillas to deal with.
Spain excels because of their ability to push the pace, but that doesn't mean they aren't effective when teams try to slow them down. Unlike a lot of fast, creative sides, Spain can adapt their style if necessary. It's quite rare for them to look out of their element or unprepared for an opponent.
With little to challenge them in the group stage, look for Spain to hit the ground running when knockout play begins.
June 16 vs. Switzerland (Durban)
June 21 vs. Honduras (Johannesburg -- Ellis Park)
June 25 vs. Chile (Pretoria)