Spain begin their quest to hold a clean sweep of international silverware when they face Uruguay in the opening match of Group B at the Confederations Cup in Recife. After winning an unprecedented three international tournaments by sandwiching their World Cup triumph in South Africa with two European Championships, Spain are also seeking preparation for extending their domination of the international scene back in Brazil next year.
While they remain a team of phenomenal talent, there have been slight signs that they are not quite the all-conquering force of the past. In World Cup qualifying there have been disappointing home draws with both France and Finland, although they did reassert their control of the group with a 1-0 win in Paris in March.
Coach Vicente del Bosque has taken his strongest possible squad to Brazil, but, with some members of the side no longer at their peak, the former Real Madrid boss may try to mold some fresher faces into the lineup. La Roja warmed up for the Confederations Cup with a 2-0 victory over the Republic of Ireland last week and Del Bosque believes that his squad is well equipped heading to Brazil.
"We are confident, but we have to pay attention to all our opponents in the Confederations Cup, because they are all good sides,” he said. "Everyone in this squad is very good, every player is a regular starter for their respective clubs, and we have a very difficult task in choosing the best players from a great group. We have many options and they are all good ones."
There may be some doubts about Spain, but Uruguay are certainly a side that appear to have passed their peak. Under Oscar Washington Tabarez, Uruguay achieved a fine semifinal place at the last World Cup before claiming glory in the Copa America a year later. But since then they have endured a struggling qualification campaign for the World Cup as the new generation has so far failed to step up and replace some of old guard like center back Diego Lugano and forward Diego Forlan. Uruguay do, though, come into the Confederations Cup in improved form and spirits having claimed a potentially vital 1-0 victory in Venezuela last week. But Tabarez acknowledged that his side are at a disadvantage against Spain.
“It is logical to say that [they are the best],” he said, according to Goal.com. “Spain are favorites, they are the best team in the world, they are the champions and Uruguay are less so in their prime. They are a team that if you allow them to have the ball, you won't see it anymore. Spain are superior to Brazil in their treatment of the ball. Then it is Brazil and then Argentina. It is not the case with Uruguay, who from the start teach their children to defend."
D: Arbeloa, Ramos, Pique, Alba
M: Xavi, Busquets, Iniesta
F: Pedro, Villa, Mata
D: M. Pereira, Lugano, Godin, Caceres
M: Perez, Gargano, A. Pereira
F: Cavani, Forlan, Suarez
Prediction: Spain will, as always dominate possession, while Uruguay will have to make the most of their opportunities on the break through their world-class forwards Edinson Cavani and Luis Suarez. The World champions are still struggling to find the best option to lead their attack but they should have enough to get an opening win.
Spain 3-1 Uruguay
Where to watch: The Confederations Cup Group B match will kick-off at 6 p.m. ET. Coverage will be provided by ESPN, with a live stream available on Watch ESPN.