LANDOVER, MD. JUNE 8, 2014 – Can Spain do the double? After winning two European Championships in 2008 and 2012, the 2010 World Cup winners will be hoping to claim the title again in Brazil, becoming the first European team to win World Cups in both Europe and South America.
But is it a bridge too far? No European team has won the World Cup outside of Europe, and Brazil looked to be the favorite with the home-field advantage.
Italy (1934, 1938) and Brazil (1958, 1962) are the only teams to win back-to-back finals, and Brazil is the only team to do it both in Europe and South America.
Spain warmed up for its World Cup campaign with a 2-0 win over El Salvador on two goals for David Villa at FedExField in Landover, Md., on Saturday. They were Villa’s 57th and 58th international goals. America will be seeing a lot more of the striker next year. Villa was signed this week by Major League Soccer’s expansion New York City FC.
Spain started the game with only a handful of their key players, including captain Casillas, Sergio Ramos, Andres Iniesta, Xabi Alonso, and Cesc Fabregas. Brazilian-born striker Diego Costa, who is a target of Chelsea FC, earned his second start for Spain and lasted 74 minutes. The stadium was a sea of blue with most of the 53,267 crowd cheering on El Salvador.
With the player’s minds clearly on the big World Cup match against the Netherlands on June 13, Spain played a cautious game against El Salvador, content to control possession and avoid any serious injuries. Costa won Spain a lucky penalty kick in the 3rd minute, but Fabregas fired the ball high over the bar. Ramos then saw a long range effort stopped.
The 68th ranked El Salvadorans held the world’s No. 1 team scoreless until the hour mark when substitute Villa headed home a close-range goal. Ramos had the assist, heading the ball into the path of Villa who got his head to the ball before Costa could convert a shot.
Sergio Busquets hit the bar with a wicked shot in the 80th minute. Eight minutes later, Villa was on target again, collecting the ball with his right foot and sending a low cross to the right of goalie Derby Carrillo, who despite the two goals, played a fine game for the minnows.
Things will be a lot harder in Brazil for Spain where the world champions will compete in Group B, against the Netherlands, Chile and Australia.
Spain’s game against the Netherlands, which will be a rematch of the 2010 final, is a crucial game. The loser will likely face Brazil in the last 16, setting up a nightmare scenario in which a top team could leave the tournament early. The Netherlands will certainly be looking to avenge the 2010 final in South Africa, a scrappy affair that saw Iniesta score the winner in extra-time.
Spain still boasts a remarkable roster and if it was to win the World Cup in Brazil it could claim to be the greatest team in soccer history. However, in Brazil the heat and early kickoffs, could work against Spain’s aging roster. That sad, Villa has found a new lease of life and could be the danger man to give Spain the edge.
Spain – Iker Casillas; Juanfran Torres, Javi Martinez, Sergio Ramos, Jodi Alba; Koke, Andres Iniesta, Xabi Alonso, Cesc Fabregas; Pedro Rodriguez, Diego Costa.
El Salvador – Derby Carrillo; Jonathan Barrios, Alexander Mendoza, Xavier Garcia, Alexander Larin; Arturo Alvarez, Darwin Green, Richard Menjivar, Keven Santamaria; Rafael Burgos, Andres Flores