1 Iker Casillas goalkeeper, Real Madrid
2 Raúl Albiol defender, Napoli
3 Gerard Piqué defender, Barcelona
4 Javi Martínez midfielder, Bayern Munich
5 Juanfran defender, Atlético Madrid
6 Andrés Iniesta midfielder, Barcelona
7 David Villa forward, Atlético Madrid
8 Xavi midfielder, Barcelona
9 Fernando Torres forward, Chelsea
10 Cesc Fábregas midfielder, Barcelona
11 Pedro forward, Barcelona
12 David de Gea goalkeeper, Manchester United
13 Juan Mata midfielder, Manchester United
14 Xabi Alonso midfielder, Real Madrid
15 Sergio Ramos defender, Real Madrid
16 Sergio Busquets midfielder, Barcelona
17 Koke midfielder, Atlético Madrid
18 Jordi Alba defender, Barcelona
19 Diego Costa forward, Atlético Madrid
20 Santi Cazorla midfielder, Arsenal
21 David Silva midfielder, Manchester City
22 César Azpilicueta defender, Chelsea
23 Pepe Reina goalkeeper, Napoli
Andrés Iniesta. It would have been impossible to choose a more popular player to score the winner in South Africa in 2010. Even Real Madrid fans like him.
Most likely to be sent home in disgrace
Sergio Ramos has been sent off 17 times for Real Madrid but not once for Spain in 115 appearances but his club and country value him too highly to bother branding him a disgrace.
Everyone’s favourite cuddly uncle. If there’s one word that leaps to the mind when you meet Vicente del Bosque it’s “decency”. Quiet, humble, generous and warm. Universally liked, except by a tiny handful of the pathetic and bitter. Manages big players softly and occasionally surprises with a tactical innovation. Two league titles, two European Cups, a European Championship and a World Cup. Marquis del Bosque now.
There’s something about the Italians that tends to get their Spanish neighbours going, sending the stereotypes streaming: Italy, it’s often said, are cynical, dirty and boring. Unlike Spain. Crucially, for years, unlike Spain, they were successful, too. The Euro 2008 quarter-finals and the 2012 final have taken some of the edge out of that. Maybe now it will be Brazil. After all, Spain have “signed” Diego Costa, the tall, quick, strong and often prickly Brazilian-born forward. He should be a valuable new weapon in Del Bosque’s armoury.
In Curitiba in the south. It’ll be cold, Del Bosque says. Cold for Spain, anyway. Calm, quiet, and relatively isolated but with friends and families close enough to turn up for days off. Card games, sweepstakes on other matches and PlayStation to keep them busy. At the last World Cup, Álvaro Arbeloa and Raúl Albiol always chose to play as England, parading round the camp in three lions shirts with “Gerrard” or “Crouch” on the back. Table tennis matches will be hotly contested, “like double sessions every day”, as Juan Mata puts it. He is the man to beat.
How they qualified
The holders topped their five-team group with six wins and two draws, and only briefly looked troubled by runners-up France when Franck Ribéry ran at their defence.
World Cup high
Short memory? The meat in their euro sandwich, they survived Holland’s attempts to maim them and won the ugly final in 2010, four minutes from the end of extra time when the magnificent Andrés Iniesta half-volleyed his shot past Maarten Stekelenburg.
World Cup low
Leading 2-1 against Nigeria in 1998 with 18 minutes to play they ended up losing 3-2 and the team, stacked with excellent players in their prime such as Luís Enrique, Raúl, Fernando Hierro and Sergi, were knocked out at the group stage when they drew their next match with Paraguay.
Juan Mata (Manchester United), Santi Cazorla (Arsenal), David de Gea (Manchester United), César Azpilicueta (Chelsea), David Silva (Manchester City), Fernando Torres (Chelsea).
Title odds: 5/1
The stereotype is …
Team of magical elves hypnotising the opposition with short, rhythmical passing which proves so mesmeric it makes centreforwards redundant.
The reality is …
Team of magical elves … they are tougher than they seem, are very strong defensively. Spain will adopt a 4-3-3 formation, albeit one that may include no actual strikers at all, and seek possession for protection as well as creation.
What they’re known for?
Tiki taka 36 per cent
Unemployment 19 per cent
Timeshare cockney wideboys 22 per cent
Napping all afternoon 23 per cent
How Google translates the national anthem
It’s an instrumental, which did not stop Eamon Dunphy in 2012 saying the squad had decided not to sing the non-existent words to show Barcelona and Real Madrid players were united in common purpose.
One minute and 18 sec or 16 bars of brassy pomp and circumstance to honour the king.
How to dress like their fans
Pastel cashmere jumper slung around the shoulders Style Council-style, eternally sockless and with Ray Bans doubling as Alice band or red shirts, wineskins and comedy matador hats.
Commentator’s go-to fact
In fourteen hundred and ninety-two, Columbus sailed the ocean blue. He had three ships and left from Spain; he sailed through sunshine, wind and rain.