MADRID (Reuters) - Factbox on the Spain national team ahead of the 2018 World Cup:
FIFA ranking: 8 (till June 7)
Spain have played in 14 World Cups and qualified for every edition since 1978. They have won it once, beating the Netherlands 1-0 in the 2010 final in South Africa with an extra-time strike from Andres Iniesta.
Before then they had reached the quarter-finals in 1934, 1986, 1994 and 2002 but lost every time. As holders they suffered a shock elimination from the group stage in 2014.
Coach: Julen Lopetegui
Former goalkeeper Lopetegui spent most of his career with Logrones and Rayo Vallecano and had brief stints at Real Madrid and Barcelona. He made one appearance for Spain and was an unused substitute at the 1994 World Cup.
He coached Rayo Vallecano and Real Madrid’s reserve team before going into Spain’s youth team set-up, leading the under-21 team to glory at the 2013 European Championship with a side containing future first teamers Isco, Koke and David de Gea.
After being sacked following a trophy-less 18 months at FC Porto he was named Vicente del Bosque’s successor in July 2016. He has rejuvenated the squad with many of his former charges from the under-21 side and helped them to recover their attacking flair, refocusing on a possession-based style of play but making them faster and more dangerous on the counter-attack.
Isco: Lopetegui knows how to get the best out of the Real Madrid playmaker. He can play across midfield, behind the striker or even as a deep lying center-forward and ran riot in impressive wins over Italy and Argentina.
Andres Iniesta: The Barcelona veteran has conducted Spain’s all-powerful midfield for more than a decade and was the heartbeat of their world dominance between 2008 and 2012.
Still as masterful on the ball as ever at 34 years of age, he will be looking for one last hurrah in Russia before quitting international football and leaving Barca.
Sergio Ramos: The center back and captain has developed a win-at-all-costs mentality and knows exactly how to manage the biggest games. An unforgiving opponent for attackers due to his physical presence and never-say-die attitude, Ramos’s experience of four Champions League finals with Real Madrid and five major tournaments will be vital to Spain’s hopes.
Spain have not lost since their Euro 2016 last-16 defeat to Italy and have won 13 out of 18 games with Lopetegui, drawing five. They comprehensively beat France and Belgium in international friendlies and proved their credentials by ripping apart Argentina 6-1 in their last outing.
How they qualified:
Spain breezed their way through qualifying by winning every game aside from a 1-1 draw away to Italy, whom they outclassed 3-0 at home to finish above them and top of their group, scoring 36 goals in 10 games.
Spain will face a testing opener against European champions Portugal which is likely to determine whether they finish top of Group B, which also contains Iran and Morocco.
If they win the group they are likely to face either Uruguay or Egypt in the last 16, with a possible quarter-final against Argentina, Croatia or France coming next.
Given the talent in the squad and their form under Lopetegui, a semi-final appearance should be the minimal target, although they will feel confident they can go all the way.
Reporting by Richard Martin; editing by Martyn Herman