In their final warm-up match against Poland on Tuesday, Spain welcomed their injured superstars Cesc Fabregas and Fernando Torres back into the fold. With all of their players finally ready to roll, the team was primed to make a statement to the rest of the world before heading off for South Africa. The message? Spain are fucking awesome.
6-0. Six Different Scorers.
At the moment, Spain are playing the best football of any team in the world and are certainly the favorites coming into this World Cup. They also, much like Italy, have an incredibly easy Group (as my friend coined it, THE GROUP OF CAKE!!), and they should be able to use their superiority in every area of the game to substitute their players liberally, giving everyone plenty of touches and time on the pitch and keeping the team healthy. There is not much of a story in the Group stage; Spain are going to dominate Group H.
Lightning: David Villa
The issue arises once the Group stage is over; Spain have an incredibly tough draw as they have to play the second place team from THE GROUP OF DEATH!! (probably either the Ivory Coast or rival Portugal), which sets up a beautiful CAKE OR DEATH showdown:
Cake Or Death?
CAKE OR DEATH is immediately followed by a probable quarter final match with a revenge-minded Italy (who lost the 2008 European Championship to Spain), followed by a likely semi-final showdown with either Argentina or Germany before heading into the final against Brazil (likely), The Netherlands (here’s hoping) or England (less likely). If Spain wins the World Cup under those circumstances, they will no doubt deserve the title of World Champions. Sure, anything can happen on the road to the Final, but holy shit; that is a gauntlet of doom if I ever saw one. They can’t even sandbag it in the Group stages; if Spain were to be on 6 points when they head in against Chile on June 25 and had already qualified for the knockout stages, they might consider losing the match to allow Chile to win the Group allowing Spain to avoid the Group winner’s ridiculous draw. Of course, if they do that, they likely face Brazil in the first game of the knockout stages. Um, no thanks.
Thunder: El Niño
With Spain’s history of underachievement assuaged by their recent win at Euro 2008, expectations are high that Spain can pull off the World Cup. But I have to say, I will be very, very surprised if they get it done; the draw is just way too treacherous and, without a late round upset of a probable opponent, they will have had to defeat the 1st, 3rd, 5th, and 6th or 7th best teams in the world to win it all. I am as much a fan of Spain as anyone, but to win under these circumstances would rank as one of the greatest triumphs in the history of world football. I know the world will see anything less than winning the Cup as a disappointment, another example of Spanish underachievement, but I don’t think so; if they do it, it will be a miracle.
Who To Watch
For Spain, there is one player who is, for me, one of the most thrilling players in world football today; Andres Iniesta, an absolute magician with the ball at his feet and one of the most unassuming superstars you’ll ever watch. Did you see that pass to Xavi on goal #2 in the clip above? Iniesta is out of this world. For Honduras, it is time for David Suazo to step out of the shadow of fellow striker Carlos Pavon and make this team his own; it is his time to shine. For Chile, it is the “other” Suazo, Humberto Suazo who carries the team; a deadly, physical striker who lead Chile past Argentina and Paraguay to finish second behind Brazil in CONMEBOL. Suazo has been through the wars with Chile and is primed to make a big impact in Group H. Finally, Alexander Frei of Switzerland is a big and powerful striker who can score inside and outside the box; he has 40 goals for his country and will be the man to watch when he Swiss take the field.
All Time Best: Switzerland’s Frei
Must See Match
Hrm. I guess it’s Switzerland vs Chile on June 21st, when the two teams I expect to vie for second place (and a much easier draw in the knock out stages) meet up. I expect Chile to take this match and set up a big finale against Spain; depending on Chile (and Spain, I guess), the final Group match could be a battle to avoid a round of 16 match against mighty Brazil. High stakes stuff.
On The Bubble: Honduras’ David Suazo
Who Moves On
I think the way these matches fall, Chile has the best chance to join Spain in the second round. What looks on paper to be an easy Group for Spain is actually a nightmare of sorts; there is no way out. It’s a long road to the Final for the winner of Group H.
Oooh, Chile: Humberto Suazo
Up Next: Final Predictions and Storylines