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World Cup 2018: Spain

Spain head to the World Cup 2018 after failing to emerge from the group stages four years ago in Brazil.

With a new manager and squad of exciting players, Spain could recapture the Jules Rimet Trophy.

It won’t be easy for Julen Lopetegui’s side. However, a favourable group should set them up nicely for the knockout stages.

Lopetegui has announced his 23-man roster and the manager raised plenty of eyebrows around the world with the names he left off his list. Chelsea’s Alvaro Morata, Cesc Fabregas and Marcos Alonso have all been left out of the Spanish squad for World Cup 2018. Meanwhile, Manchester United’s Ander Herrera and Arsenal’s Hector Bellerin have also been omitted.

Spain will take an exciting group of attackers to Russia, although Lopetegui’s preferred players lack big international match experience. Atletico Madrid’s Diego Costa will be tasked with scoring Spain’s lion’s share of goals. He is joined by Real Madrid’s Isco, Marco Asensio, Lucas Vazquez and Valencia’s Rodrigo. Lopetegui’s squad decision shows a favouritism toward players based in La Liga.

Only four players were selected from the English Premier League. Those four consisted of David De Gea, David Silva, Cesar Azpilicueta and Nacho Monreal. Interestingly, Spain have included Andres Iniesta despite the Spaniard finishing his Barcelona career. In all, six Real Madrid players have been selected, the most of any club team.

Since Lopetegui took over the manager’s position, Spain have gone undefeated. His performances have not gone unnoticed and Lopetegui was recently rewarded with a contract extension that will take him past the Euro 2020 tournament.

Spain had little difficult qualifying for this year’s World Cup. The team went undefeated and won nine of 10 matches. Spain gave up just three goals in qualifying and posted a +33-goal difference.

Lopetegui’s men will compete in Group B along with Portugal, Morocco and Iran. According to high-profile sportsbooks, Spain are favourites to win the group with Portugal coming second. Group B is far weaker than Spain’s group from 2014. Four years ago, Spain had to play the Netherlands, Chile and Australia in a group of death. The Spanish conceded seven goals in their first two matches, losing both, before winning the group stage finale 3-0 against Australia.

The World Cup 2018 group stages should prove far more manageable for Spain. The team is now in the midst of a new surge of talent. The 2014 World Cup was proof that Spain’s previous group of players had reached their endpoint. Spain had won the 2008 Euros, 2010 World Cup and 2012 Euros before failing miserably in Brazil. The Euro 2016 tournament was an improvement, but Lopetegui has been building the national team back up ever since taking over. Spain should be one of the feared teams at the World Cup.