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Spain: Biggest favorite in Russia, but how about the new manager?

14 June 2018
Spain made history yesterday by sacking manager Julen Lopetegui two days before their first match of the World Cup. How will this unprecedented move affect the team that has the biggest chance of winning according to our model?
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Chances of winning

Using our unique simulation tool, Remiqz is able to predict the course of the FIFA World Cup. Spain has a very good chance of getting far in the tournament. According to our calculations, there is a 96.9% chance of Spain progressing to the last 16 of their group with Portugal, Morocco and Iran. If we look at the knockout phase of the tournament, our model gives Spain a very healthy 38.4% chance of featuring in the final and a 24% of winning the cup.

Selection

Spanish football is all about technical players. It shows in this squad, which has the highest average EPI of all teams in Russia. There are three players who have an EPI-score of over 5000: FC Barcelona’s Gérard Piqué (5151), Manchester City’s David Silva (5087) and FC Barcelona’s Jordi Alba (5082).

Style of play

Especially with national team sides, it’s debatable whether a manager has that much influence in team performance. The World Cup in Russia will be a very interesting test for that thesis, since Spain have switched their manager two days before they start the tournament.

Spain is a possession side and with all their fantastic midfielders, one can understand why. They play a 4-3-3 that gives a lot of freedom for the wingers to come inside and act as playmakers to overload the centre of the pitch. La Roja have one of the best goalkeepers in the world in David de Gea. The defence is solely composed out of Barcelona and Real Madrid players with Dani Carvajal (currently injured), Sergio Ramos, Gérard Piqué and Jordi Alba.

In midfield, the choice becomes scary. Busquets plays a number 6 and just in front of him, for two midfield spots and two playmaker-on-the-wing spots, manager Fernando Hierro can choose between: Andrés Iniesta, David Silva, Isco, Koke, Saúl Ñíguez, Marco Asensio and Thiago Alcántara.

The only place that’s still up for grabs is the striker position. Spain can choose between a traditional no.9 in Diego Costa, a pacey poacher in Rodrigo and can also play a false 9 who drops into the midfield, like Isco or Asensio.

It’s hard to point out a clear weak side of this Spain team, but they might be vulnerable for counter-attacking. Even though Sergio Ramos and Gérard Piqué both have been playing at the highest level for more than a decade, for most of their careers they have been partnered with defenders who are faster. The triangle Ramos – Piqué – Busquets is wonderful in possession, but lacks pace. If Spain lose the ball up front and don’t manage to get it back within a couple of seconds, they might be badly exposed on the counter-attack.

All in all, Spain are heavy favourites to win the title in Russia and it’s also interesting to see how the squad reacts to the new manager. Everybody who goes to Russia with a squad that’s this talented, has a chance to win the World Cup.

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(Images by Pro Shots)