Are Spain and Brazil shaping up for a fight to finish at the World Cup?
When it comes to the World Cup, Spain and Brazil are different in many ways. Brazil has dominated, winning a record five editions of the tournament. The South American giants also hold the record for the most appearance in the competition.
The Selecao have been ever-present in the tournament and as such have inspired many, creating more icons in the game than any other nation ever has. Stars like Pele, Romario, Ronaldo, Ronaldinho, and Kaka at one time or another, were household names. Their main man this time around? Paris-Saint Germain striker, Neymar.
Spain may not boast such illustrious history, but La Furia Roja has enjoyed glory, too. The Spanish national team has made its own mark in the global showpiece, although much more recently than their South American counterparts. But interestingly, from far back in 1934 when the Spanish national team made its debut at the FIFA World Cup, they beat Brazil in their very first match in the tournament. However, a fourth-place finish in the 1950 edition of the tournament held (curiously) in Brazil remained Spain’s best performance in the competition until 2010.
A lack of honours at the world stage, despite playing good football, saw the Spaniards nicknamed the “underachievers”. But a six-year period of unbelievable football etched Spain’s name amongst the greats. They'll forever be regarded as arguably the best international team to ever grace the game.
Starting off with victory at the European Championships in 2008, La Roja went on to lift the grandest trophy of all in world football in 2010; the FIFA World Cup, held in South Africa. After winning Euro 2012, Spain completed a treble of three consecutive international tournament wins beating Germany, the Netherlands, and Italy respectively in the trio of finals. The national team won the FIFA Team of the Year for six consecutive years. Only Brazil has won more. However, Spain did equal Brazil’s record unbeaten run of 35 consecutive matches.
There seems to be a unique connection between Spain and Brazil. We're talking about arguably the two best football sides in the world at the moment. The two sides see the World cup as theirs to win. They simply are not going to the event to make up the numbers.
Just as Brazil boasts household names in the game, Spain can now point to its own. Midfield maestros Xavi Hernandez, Andreas Iniesta, and Sergio Busquets. Defenders Carles Puyol and Sergio Ramos. You also have strikers David Villa and Fernando Torres.
But behind it all, was former Real Madrid manager Vicente del Bosque; who coached the team through the period. What seemed to be the end of an era when he left, however, has started the building of a new dynasty. The man he handed over the baton to seems to be ready to continue to keep flying the flag proudly. Julen Lopetegui has not lost a single match with the national team since he took over. A 19-match unbeaten run seems the perfect preparation for Russia 2018. At this rate, you'd be daft to bet against Spain going all the way.
Fortunately or unfortunately, there is another contender – Brazil. For whatever Spain does, the Selecao appear capable of matching, or even beating it. After taking over from Dunga, Tite led the side through a flawless qualification process. Brazil was the first country, aside from host-nation Russia, to qualify. The team is currently on a 10-match unbeaten run. Croatia was the latest victim as they fell 2-0 to Tite’s men.
This sets up a situation where the two countries will likely slug it out for the trophy. Spain is in Group B while Brazil is in Group E. This means they are in separate halves of the bracket, making it extremely possible that they can meet in the final. But regardless of whether they go head-to-head in the showpiece, it is highly likely that one will leave Russia as the new world champions.