Spain World Cup Preview & Analysis: Schedule, Roster & Projections
- Spain are one of the favorites to win the 2022 World Cup.
- Will they make a run at the title?
- Read on for a full preview, featuring projections, tactical analysis and a schedule.
The 2022 FIFA World Cup has arrived, and Action Network's staff of soccer experts are here to take you through each and every team that will be participating.
Read on for a full breakdown of Spain ahead of the tournament, and click here for analysis on each of the other 31 teams.
Spain World Cup Preview
Based on xG difference, Spain were the best team at the Euros last summer. They drew with Sweden and Poland because of poor finishing and went out on penalties to Italy in the semifinal, but it’s important to note just how great Spain were at creating chances in that six-game tournament. They produced 16.7 xG in six matches, and while there was extra time included, they did play one fewer match than finalists England and Italy. No other team created more than 14 xG.
One problem for Spain: They only scored 13 goals from those chances. It fits perfectly into the narrative of main striker Alvaro Morata’s inconsistent finishing throughout his career. Spain have all of the beautiful passing and the possession that defined their run of dominance in the early 2010s. Since Luis Enrique has come in as manager, they have improved their pressing and possessing considerably. Yet, they lack the end product, the defense struggles to play without the ball and they lose in these knockout tournaments at the margins.
On paper, Spain have a strong case as the second-best team in the world coming into the tournament. But these tournaments are often won and lost on those margins – the slim margins also knocked them out of the last World Cup in Russia after Russia stole the game on penalties – and it’s hard not to quiver thinking about Spain’s defending in their own penalty area or finishing in the opponent’s.
|Chances To…||Action Projections||bet365 Odds|
|Win Group Stage||68.05%||-120|
|Advance To Knockout Round||93.59%||-900|
|Win World Cup||15.74%||+850|
|Odds as of publish. Action projections by Nick Giffen of the Action Predictive Analytics team.|
Spain did show some cracks in their qualifying group, and they will need to be at their best in a very difficult group. Not only is Germany paired with them, the best 1-2 punch of any group, but Japan is a dangerous underdog that is well drilled and always dangerous.
Given how condensed this tournament is, Spain have the midfield depth and ability to be on the ball a ton and they won’t wear down defending without the ball as much. That could be a key advantage.
You expect Cesar Azpilicueta and Jordi Alba to be the two full backs, with Alba getting forward to serve as an outlet and ball progressor up the left flank. Aymeric Laporte and Pau Torres have question marks as defenders, but so does Eric Garcia, the other option.
The talent is everywhere for Spain — can they put it together and win this tournament? It likely comes down to finishing chances.
Key Player: Álvaro Morata
Morata is the key not just because of his past inconsistency with finishing, but because of his ability to link up the play with all of the pieces in this dynamic passing unit. He is an excellent all-around striker who is able to connect with the midfielders and make quality off-ball runs to get on the end of scoring chances in behind.
He did score multiple goals in the Euros, even if he missed many more chances. Morata is likely to be the target man when Alba is whipping in crosses from the left, and he’s also likely to be the player receiving progressive passes from Gavi, Thiago and Pedri in the center of the pitch.
Morata did pick up a knock playing for Atletico Madrid in a league match in late October, but it is not expected to be serious. Having him fit and healthy is of major importance for this Spain team. No player received more progressive passes than Morata at the Euros last summer, and he averaged a whopping 1.05 xG per 90 minutes.
They’ll go as far as he takes them, and one good finishing run means they could be the favorite to lift the trophy.
You can expect to see Spain play in a 4-3-3 formation, but who plays where is an interesting conversation. The midfield three is sure to be loaded up with passers, and Enrique will have a decision to make with who plays in those wide positions.
Because Alba loves to provide width up the left flank, that gives more room for the left winger to come inside and create combinations from there. That opens the door for someone like Dani Olmo, who took more shots than anyone at the Euros last summer and could shine in a more advanced role.
Ferran Torres typically sees a lot of minutes at striker for Spain, but he actually produces more in a wide role when presented that opportunity. There’s also Mikel Oyarzabal, Pablo Sarabia and others that can take that wide forward role. Given how much Enrique loves inverted wingers, anything is on the table for these wide positions.
Spain dominate opponents by strangling possession and play defense by having the ball more than any international team in the world. They get plenty of touches in the opposition’s final third and penalty area but don’t do a great job of turning that into clear scoring chances.
They dominate possession, create efficiently from set pieces and don’t like defending without the ball. To alleviate their out of possession problems, they counterpress the loss of possession as heavily as any team in international football. The goal is to win the ball back immediately and get back where Spain are comfortable: on the ball.
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Spain World Cup Schedule
|Costa Rica||11 a.m. ET, No. 23|
|Germany||2 p.m. ET, Nov. 27|
|Japan||2 p.m. ET, Dec. 1|
Most Recent World Cup Result
Round of 16 (2018)
Spain didn't love up to expectations in their 2018 campaign, getting out of the group stage before falling to the hosts, Russia, in penalty kicks. The 2018 run was better than their 2014 effort, in which Spain couldn't get out of their group.