After an unprecedented three major international tournament triumphs in a row – encompassing Euro 2008, the 2010 World Cup and Euro 2012 – Spain flopped miserably in defence of their world crown in Brazil in 2014, exiting the competition in the group stage.
Humbled 5-1 by the Netherlands at the last World Cup and unable to retain their European Championship title in 2016, eliminated by Italy in the first knockout round, Spain have steadily rediscovered their form and confidence under Julen Lopetegui, who took charge of La Roja following Vicente del Bosque’s retirement.
The 2010 champions breezed through qualifying, dropping just two points from a possible 30, topping their group five points clear of four-time World Cup winners Italy.
Considered to be back among the contenders ahead of this summer’s tournament in Russia, our friends at Football Whispers have studied Spain’s statistics and form to pick out the best three ways to bet on La Roja at the 2018 World Cup.
Back Spain for shutouts
Spain’s opening game of the tournament, against European champions Portugal in Sochi on June 15, is arguably the most anticipated tie of the opening round, pitting two teams ranked inside the world’s top ten against one another.
The Portuguese will provide a stern test for Spain, serving as a useful barometer of the progress they have made since 2016. After that, though, Spain face much more manageable tasks in the shape of Morocco and Iran.
Like La Roja, both Morocco and Iran were unbeaten through qualifying, averaging 1.83 and 3.25 goals per game respectively. But neither faced opposition anywhere near the quality of Spain.
With their ability to dominate the ball – La Roja’s average of 722 passes per game was the highest in European qualification – and a backline marshaled by Real Madrid’s Sergio Ramos and Gerard Piqué of Barcelona, both world-class central defenders, Spain are incredibly difficult to break down, conceding just three goals throughout qualifying.
Back them to keep a clean sheet in each of their final two group games.
Spain and Portugal top dogs
Reigning champions of Europe thanks to their odds-defying triumph in France two summers ago and spearheaded by Cristiano Ronaldo, the Real Madrid froward named the world’s best player five times, Portugal represent a sizeable first hurdle for Spain to surmount.
However, despite their well-organised backline and superstar No.7, Fernando Santos’ side cannot match Spain for overall quality in the starting XI nor the strength in depth of their 23-man squad.
Spain outscored Portugal by 36 goals to 32 in qualifying, conceded three goals to their opponents’ four, and ranked behind only Germany (3.9) and Belgium (3.4) for big chances created per 90 minutes (3.1).
Even if the opening game of Group B ends in a draw, Spain have all the tools to outgun Portugal in the remaining fixtures and pip them to top spot. Spain to finish first and Portugal second in Group B is +120 with bet365.
La Roja ready for a deep run
With the disappointment of 2014 behind them, Spain look ready to reclaim their place among international football’s elite in Russia.
With many of the old guard – such as Iker Casillas, Xavi, Xabi Alonso and David Villa – no longer on the scene, the new-look Spain squad possesses the perfect blend of youth and experience.
Although Brazil and reigning champions Germany are perceived to be slightly better equipped to triumph, Spain cannot be written off as genuine contenders, and should be confident of at least a place in the semi-finals, which they are +137 to achieve with bet365.