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Can Spain end their wait to join the World’s elite in South Africa?

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The 2010 World Cup in South Africa is fast approaching and as the big kick off in Johannesburg on 11th June approaches, much debate surrounds who will be crowned soccer’s World Champions.

The leading protagonists amongst so-called expert pundits to win the World Cup are Spain, Brazil and England. Argentina, Italy, Germany, Holland and France make up the other most likely contenders and past winners of the competition suggest that it is unlikely that any of the remaining 24 competing nations are likely to be in contention to win the tournament.

Since the World Cup’s inception in 1930, the 18 tournaments which have followed have been won by just seven different nations with. Twelve of those titles have been shared amongst just three teams, with Brazil topping all records having been crowned champions on five occasions, followed by Italy, who have won it on four occasions, whilst Germany have three World Cups to their name. The other successful nations are Argentina and Uruguay (both of whom are two times winners) and France and England have each won the World Cup once.

All seven previous World Cup winners have qualified for the 2010 World Cup and will head to South Africa looking to add to their proud World Cup heritage. Apart from Uruguay, who have not won the competition since 1950 and cannot be fancied to make an impact this time, the remaining six nations all harbour reasonable hopes of winning the competition.

In fact, only eleven teams have ever played in the World Cup final and given three of those teams (Czech Republic, Hungary and Sweden) won’t be present in South Africa, only the Netherlands remain of the other teams heading to South Africa with any real World Cup pedigree.

Ironically, it is Spain, a team with no history of success at the World Cup, who currently top the bookmakers World Cup Odds and are favourites to win the competition for the first time in South Africa. The current European Champions have never fared well on the World stage, appearing in the the Semi Finals on just one occasion back in 1950, and subsequently knocked out in the Quarter Finals on three occasions since.

There is no question that the current Spanish squad is packed with talented players. From Iker Casillas in goals, to defenders such as Carles Puyol and Sergio Ramos through to midfielders such as Xavi , Xabi Alonso and Cesc Fabregas, all of whom would command a starting place in the midfield of any team at the World Cup, not to mention David Villa and Fernando Torres, undoubtedly two of the best strikers in the World right now and first and second in the Golden Boot betting. However, if this team is to end the poor run of form of the Spanish teams at the World Cup before them, they will have to repeat the form that saw them win Euro 2008, something that if they do will no doubt see them in contention but may be more difficult at the second time of asking with the added pressure of being the favourites.

Whilst history suggests that the team who win the World Cup in South Africa will be one of the previous winners, many will argue that a new name to be etched on the famous trophy is long overdue, with France in 1998, the only new name added in the seven tournaments since 1978. If any team looks primed to end that dominance of an elite group, it has got to be Spain, who on paper look like they will take all the beating.

Also in Spain’s favour are the question marks that the other leading nations must answer. Such as the ability of Brazil to win a major tournament outside of the Americas, where they have won their last four Word Cups. Italy and Germany must both prove they are still the forces they once were despite ageing squads and Maradona must prove he has the ability to guide a talented Argentina team to victory much in the same way Fabio Capello must demonstrate that he can end England’s unlucky run of World Cup exits with the talent available.

At this stage, Spain are the only team heading to the World Cup in the kind of form of World Champions. History may be against Vicente Del Bosque’s side but with the players at his disposal, Spain have got to be fancied to open up a new chapter in World Cup history.

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