IT is a little harsh to be critical of a nation that is the reigning world and dual European champions but they did not get things all their own way in qualification.


Outright odds: 13/2

To win group: 8/11

To qualify: 1/7


Full squad: Iker Casillas (Real Madrid), Pepe Reina (Liverpool), David De Gea (Manchester United), Sergio Ramos (Real Madrid), Gerard Pique (Barcelona), Raul Albiol (Napoli), Javi Martinez (Bayern Munich), Juanfran (Atletico Madrid), Jordi Alba (Barcelona), Cesar Azpilicueta (Chelsea), Xavi (Barcelona), Xabi Alonso (Real Madrid), Andres Iniesta (Barcelona), Koke (Atletico Madrid), Sergio Busquets (Barcelona), Santi Cazorla (Arsenal), Cesc Fabregas (Barcelona), Juan Mata (Manchester United), David Silva (Manchester City), Pedro (Barcelona), Diego Costa (Atletico Madrid), David Villa (Atletico Madrid), Fernando Torres (Chelsea).

Manager: Vicente del Bosque World Cup record: Winners (2010), fourth (1950)

How they qualified (most recent first): Spain head to Brazil as the defending champions who, these days, have to qualify. They were unbeaten in their group, one which also contained France, topping it with six wins and two draws.

v Georgia (home) 2-0 (HT 1-0) Negredo 26, Mata 61

v Belarus (home) 2-1 (HT 0-0) Xavi 61, Negredo 78

v Finland (away) 2-0 (HT 1-0) Alba 19, Negredo 86

v France (away) 1-0 (HT 0-0) Pedro 58

v Finland (home) 1-1 (0-0) Sergio Ramos 49

v France (home) 1-1 (HT 1-0) Sergio Ramos 25

v Belarus (away) 4-0 (HT 2-0) Alba 12, Pedro 21, 69, 79

v Georgia (away) 1-0 (HT 0-0) Soldado 86

Goalscorers: Pedro was Spain's top scorer in qualifying with just four which included a hat-trick against Belarus - the only time the Spanish really well went town. Manchester City's Alvaro Negredo weighed in with a goal in each of the last three fixtures.

Half-time/full-time: Spain never trailed at any stage during their qualifying campaign and twice let winning positions slip late in the games against France and Finland in a pair of 1-1 draws - the only points they dropped. Three of Spain's six wins in qualifying had them ahead at the break.

Clean sheets: Spain conceded just three goals in eight games and managed to keep five clean sheets.

Win to nil: Five of their six wins were to nil - 83 per cent. They included the toughest game of the qualifying phase, away to France.

Cards: The Spanish were well behaved as they received just five cautions from their eight games.

Other competitive internationals (most recent first): Spain played in last summer's Confederations Cup in Brazil but were well beaten in the final by Brazil - a result which had a major impact on the World Cup betting market, with the hosts becoming clear favourites in the process.

v Brazil (neutral) 0-3 (HT 0-2)

v Italy (neutral) 0-0 (7-6 pens) (HT 0-0)

v Nigeria (neutral) 3-0 (HT 1-0) Alba 3, 88, Torres 62

v Tahiti (neutral) 10-0 (HT 4-0) Torres 5, 33, 57, 78 Silva 31, 89, Villa 39, 49, 64 Mata 66

v Uruguay (neutral) 2-1 (HT 2-0) Pedro 20 Soldado 32

Build-up: A shock defeat in South Africa was put behind them with victory over Italy back in March but still the goals have not been flowing as easily as they once did.

v Bolivia (home) 2-0 (HT 0-0) Torres 51p, Iniesta 84

v Italy (home) 1-0 (HT 0-0) Pedro 63

v South Africa (away) 0-1 (HT 0-0)

v Equatorial Guinea (away) 2-1 (HT 2-1) Cazorla 14, Juanfran 42

Team verdict: It is a little harsh to be critical of a nation that is the reigning world and dual European champions but they did not get things all their own way in qualification.

A couple of draws meant they may have even had to stoop to the play-offs but a true show of class in Paris to beat France highlighted what a superb team the Spanish remain.

The bottom line is that they still possess the best squad in the tournament and worries over the form and fitness of playmakers Xavi and Andres Iniesta have perhaps been overplayed.

More of a concern will be the availability of striker Diego Costa, who ended a tremendous season with Atletico Madrid on the injured list with a hamstring problem. He has been named in the final 23-man squad but his fitness remains a worry.