How far can Spain go at the 2022 FIFA World Cup?

How far can Spain go at the 2022 FIFA World Cup?

Spain’s recent FIFA World Cup endeavours have been nothing short of disastrous. In Russia four years ago, they stumbled through a group containing Portugal, Morocco, and Iran. After that, they lost on penalties to unfancied Russia in Moscow, the lowest ranked team in the competition. Four years before that, La Roja exited Brazil 2014 before they had even played all three group games. Defeats to the Netherlands - a 5-1 thumping nonetheless - and at the hands of Chile meant that Vicente del Bosque’s all-conquering side were leaving South America before they even faced Australia. This year, oddschecker, which compares odds and provides free offers on the World Cup, has once again made the Spaniards one of the favourites for the tournament. But will they finally live up to their billing? 

 

12 years ago in South Africa was Spain’s finest hour. Led by the dazzling David Villa and Andres Iniesta, the Spanish swept all before them to secure their first and only FIFA World Cup trophy. That victory came two years after they ended 44 years of hurt when they won Euro 2008 in Austria and Switzerland. Two years on from that night in Johannesberg came Spain’s final triumph, decimating Italy 4-0 in Kyiv to seal their third consecutive trophy. This period was the greatest one in the history of Spanish football, but in the decade since, those glory days have never felt further away. 

 

That was until last summer. Victories over Croatia and Switzerland secured a place in the final four of the rescheduled European Championships, a result that was unexpected thanks to a squad that was in transition under Luis Enrique. Enrique’s side were unlucky against eventual winners Italy in that semifinal as well, losing out on penalties after dominating for long periods. 

 

La Roja would get their revenge three months later though, defeating the Azzuri in the San Siro to secure a spot in the UEFA Nations League final. They would lose to eventual winners France thanks to a controversial Kylian Mbappe winner, but the signs were clear: Luis Enrique’s young side was on the rise. 

 

How far can Spain go at the 2022 FIFA World Cup?

 

A simple run to the knockout stage? 

On paper, Spain’s initial task of qualifying from Group E looks like a simple one. Alongside them, they will find Costa Rica, Japan, and Germany - whom Spain defeated in the semifinals en route to glory back in 2010. But at Russia 2018, the likes of Iran and Morocco both looked like comprehensive victories, and how wrong we were. Sergio Ramos and co. stumbled to a 1-0 victory over Iran before Morocco almost stunned them in Kaliningrad, with Iago Aspas’ 91st-minute strike securing a 2-2 draw. 

 

The game against Die Mannschaft is also more important than it looks. Yes, victories against Costa Rica and Japan would be enough to reach the knockout stages, but it’s highly likely that the losers of the battle between the 2010 and 2014 champions will face Belgium in the second round. The Red Devils reached the final four back in 2018 and are a much more difficult-looking proposition than any one of Croatia, Canada, or Morocco. 

 

Could they go all the way? 

Spain always have the quality to go all the way, and while it would be a surprise to see them in the showpiece at the Lusail Iconic Stadium on December 18th, who expected Croatia to reach the final four years ago? 

 

The route to the final would also be complicated. While winning Group E would give La Roja a favourable draw in the second round, it would also probably set up a quarter-final with the tournament favourites Brazil, a team that everyone wants to avoid. While finishing runners-up in the group would leave a tougher last-16 affair, it would also mean that Luis Enrique’s team would face any one of Portugal, Uruguay, Serbia, Switzerland, or Cameroon, all of whom are much more appealing than Tite’s Seleção.