World Cup favourites tag weighs heavy on Spain

Spain head to the Soccer World Cup in South Africa as one of the favourites to lift the trophy on the back of their Euro 2008 success but that tag does not sit well with their players or manager.

In the past Spain have often been the dark horses to win tournaments on the back of a strong qualifying campaign and up until recently had disappointed with their only major trophy being a European championship win back in 1964.

However, the Euro 2008 win in Austria and Switzerland has raised the expectation bar and a perfect 10 wins in World Cup qualifying along with a 35-match unbeaten run — equalling the record of Brazil — has persuaded bookmakers to put Spain down as one of the major contenders.

“We would like not to have this role of favourites but we have it and have to accept it,” Liverpool forward Fernando Torres said in sports daily AS.

“In Spain we think we think we are at the centre of the world and always consider ourselves the favourites.

“I live in England at the moment and the favourites are England and Spain. In France they are France and Spain, in Brazil they are Brazil and Spain. We don’t like it but I guess it is inevitable.”

Spain have one of the most comprehensive squads in world football and boast world class stars all over the pitch such as Torres, Valencia goal machine David Villa, Arsenal starlet Cesc Fabregas and Barcelona’s creative midfield pair Andres Iniesta and Xavi Hernandez.

The confidence Spain seem to have taken from the Euro success is notable but no-one knows whether the pressure of being favourites will weigh heavy on their shoulders.

Spain have never won the World Cup — with a fourth place finish their best in 1950 — but this is seen as their big chance to lift football’s ultimate prize and the nation expects.

“Everybody in Spain thinks that anything except winning the World Cup is a failure,” admitted national coach Vicente del Bosque. “I think that’s nonsense and an extremism but, in the times we live in, it seems that extremism sells.

“And even though we don’t agree, we can hardly say it doesn’t make sense that we’re singled out, given we’re European champions and have won so many games.”

Spain have been top of the world rankings for the first time in their history and have been handed a kind group with Switzerland, Honduras and Chile but the last 16 knockout stage could see them come up against Ivory Coast, Portugal or five-time champions Brazil.

“On paper we’re favourites to go through, and I think that we have to try and finish top of the group,” said captain Iker Casillas.

“The draw for the knockout rounds is tough, but if you want to reach the World Cup final then you have to go out and beat the best.”

On paper Spain certainly look one of the strongest sides in the tournament, have a proven manager in del Bosque and real self-belief from the Euro 2008 triumph.

Spain were fancied to do well in the European championships but played without much pressure, however, at the 2010 World Cup finals they begin as firm favourites and hope to show they can handle it. — AFP

We make it make sense

If this story helped you navigate your world, subscribe to the M&G today for just R30 for the first three months

Subscribers get access to all our best journalism, subscriber-only newsletters, events and a weekly cryptic crossword.”

Related stories

WELCOME TO YOUR M&G

Already a subscriber? Sign in here

Advertising

Latest stories

Tunisia struggles to grow more wheat as Ukraine war bites

Since the Ukraine war sent global cereal prices soaring, import-dependent Tunisia has announced a push to grow all its own durum wheat, the basis for local staples like couscous and pasta.

Democracy under serious and sustained attack from within the US

Far-right Republicans and the conservative supreme court are working on a carefully laid plan to turn the US into a repressive regime

Grilling for UK leader Boris Johnson after top ministers quit

The prime minister has faced lawmakers' questions after two of the most senior figures in his government resigned. The finance and health ministers said they could no longer tolerate the culture of scandal

Declare an ‘energy emergency’, says National Planning Commission

The commission said the goals of the National Development Plan, which it is charged with advancing, ‘cannot be achieved without energy security’
Advertising

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…
×