Spain will be bidding to get their World Cup campaign off to the best possible start when they take on Costa Rica in their Group E opener on Wednesday afternoon.
La Roja have found it difficult to impress in their two World Cups since lifting the trophy in 2010, but Costa Rica reached the quarter-final stage of the 2014 competition, which is their best performance in the finals.
Spain lifted the World Cup for the first time in 2010, and it was an extraordinary period for the national side, as they also won Euro 2008 and Euro 2012 during a period of utter domination.
There is no getting away from the fact that it has been a difficult few years for La Roja by their own high standards, being eliminated in the group stage of the 2014 competition, losing two of their three matches in the finals, before exiting in the round of 16 last time out.
Spain were beaten on penalties by hosts Russia in the round of 16 in 2018, but they reached the semi-finals of Euro 2020 and are certainly capable of making a serious impression in this tournament due to their quality.
Spain finished top of League A Group 2 to advance to the semi-finals of the competition, while they comfortably secured their spot in the finals of the World Cup by finishing top of Group B, picking up 19 points from their eight matches courtesy of a record of six wins, one draw and one defeat.
Germany and Japan are also present in Group E, and the former will certainly be expecting to advance to the round of 16, with the match between the two favourites in the section scheduled for Sunday night.
Costa Rica first competed in the finals of the World Cup back in 1990, reaching the round of 16, before being eliminated in the group stage of the tournament in both 2002 and 2006.
Four years ago in Russia, the national side also went out in the group stage, but they famously reached the quarter-finals of the 2014 tournament, topping Group D ahead of Uruguay, Italy and England before overcoming Greece on penalties in the first knockout round.
Costa Rica then faced the Netherlands in the last eight of the competition, with Holland 4-3 winning on penalties following a goalless draw.
Costa Rica were actually the last team to qualify for the World Cup, and while they are outsiders to advance to the next round, a positive result against Spain would lead them nicely into their clash with Japan on November 27.
Spain possible starting lineup:
Simon; Carvajal, Laporte, P Torres, Alba; Pedri, Busquets, Gavi; F Torres, Morata, Fati
Costa Rica possible starting lineup:
Navas; C Martinez, Calvo, Duarte, Oviedo; Tejeda, Bennette, G Torres; Borges, Contreras, Campbell
This has the potential to be a very uncomfortable match for Spain, and it would certainly not be a shock if the points were shared in this contest. La Roja have been strongly defensively of late, though, and they have enough quality in the final third to score at least once, so we are backing a narrow victory for Enrique’s side.