There has been a gradual decline in the quality and level of Spanish national team. La Roja still have the best talent pool any nation can hope for, but a couple of factors have still led to Spain not being labelled as favorites for the tournament.
First and foremost is Del Bosque’s adherence to possession football. The version Spain play is negative-ish low intensity tiki-taka usually with a false 9. The end result is Spain ending up with 1-0 against mediocre oppositions. This inability to kill the game when you can lead you into trouble against even mediocre oppositions with flair players. Against the minnows, Del Bosque changes the style to direct football with an out and out striker like Fernando Torres/David Villa, sometimes both. The end result usually results in more than 3 goals.
The problem with Spain’s preferred style is teams have become adept at defending against such a system while the players on which the system thrived are not at their best. Andres Iniesta hasn’t had the best of seasons while Xavi isn’t the player he was 4 years ago.
The core problem itself lies with Del Bosque’s reluctance to rebuild the team after winning Euro 2012. The rebuild must have started itself after the victory in World Cup 2010.
So why are Spain still second favorites to win? The answer, amazingly, is the tiki-taka style.
The extreme temperatures that the teams are going to face in Brazil most suit Spain because they keep the ball and spend considerably less energy while doing so. The memories of a haggard Italy in Euro 2012 final against a fresh Spain comes to mind. Defending against them with concentration and discipline is going to be a tough ask. I predict Spain’s goals to come during the second half especially in the last half an hour. As the tournament progresses Spain’s squad will be fresher than others due to the incredible depth they have.
Spain hence are strong contenders to make the finals and I only estimate Brazil capable of beating them. Germans play high tempo game. Would they be able to adapt to the hot conditions? Their best bet would be to hammer Spain in the first half.