It seems crazy to think that Spain could be eliminated in the Group Stage of the 2014 World Cup after The Red Fury won the 2010 World Cup, as well as the European Championship in 2008 and 2012. But the Spaniards failing to reach the Knockout Stage should be looked at as a distinct possibility, for a number of reasons.
The first is age; Spain brings back 16 players from the team that won it all in South Africa four years ago, and while that gives the Spaniards a lot of experience, it also gives them a much older roster, with an average age of close to 28 years old. Obviously, there’s no shortage of talent on Spain’s roster, which should give them plenty of quality depth to use during the tournament, but the heat and humidity in Brazil, as well as all of the traveling teams will do in such a large country, could take its toll on older teams, which could make Spain susceptible to getting knocked out early.
Old age and weather conditions didn’t prevent Spain from getting out of the Group Stage last summer during the 2013 Confederations Cup, but that group included a team of amateurs in Tahiti and an overmatched Nigeria team; Spain will have no such fortune this time around.
The Spaniards will open the tournament against the Netherlands, the team they beat in the finals of the 2010 World Cup, and then play a talented Chile team with plenty of offensive firepower, before finishing with Australia. Both the Netherlands and Chile are more than capable of advancing to the Knockout Stage, and both could advance at the expense of Spain if The Red Fury isn’t at the top of its game and gets off to a slow start the way they did four years ago when they lost their opening match to Switzerland.
History could also be working against the Spaniards. The last two European teams to win the World Cup, France in 1998 and Italy in 2006, were both knocked out during the Group Stage four years later. If that trend holds true again, it would mean Spain would be sent packing after three games.
The world would undoubtedly be shocked to see Spain eliminated after the Group Stage of the 2014 World Cup. But with an older roster, a difficult group, and a small slice of history working against them, fans should at least consider the possibility of the Spanish team failing to advance to the Knockout Stage.
Bryan Zarpentine is a New York Mets writer at RantSports.com. He also writes frequently about the NFL, College Football, College Basketball, and International Soccer. Like him on Facebook, follow him on twitter @BZarp and add him on Google.