World Cup 2018: How did Spain qualify?May 30, 2018
Spain will kick off their World Cup campaign in Russia in just over two weeks and head into the tournament as one of the favourites to reclaim the title they won in 2010.
Yet, they had to qualify for the greatest competition in football, and as many would have expected, they sailed through their group.
So how did La Roja reach the World Cup?
Spain drawn in Group G
The draw for the qualifiers in the UEFA section was made way back in July 2015, pitting them in Group G with Albania, Israel, Macedonia, Liechtenstein and 2006 World Cup winners Italy.
Spain began their journey to Russia by facing Liechtenstein in September 2016 and they could not have started better.
An 8-0 victory at the Estadio Reino de León sent them straight to the top of the table, with David Silva, Alvaro Morata and Diego Costa all netting braces.
Italy to rival Spain
Their biggest test and challenger for the sole automatic spot was Italy. The Azzurri were fellow heavyweights in Europe, particularly on home soil.
Despite going ahead through Vitolo, Spain were pegged back in Turin as Daniele de Rossi equalised for the home side and earn a point.
While Italy were going to push them until the end in this qualification stage, the rest of the teams in the group were a long way off La Roja’s quality.
Spain dominate lower-ranked teams
When the draw was made, aside from the Iberian nation and Italy, only Albania (36) and Israel (50) were ranked in the top 100.
The former did feature at 2016 European Championships, but they would be no match for Spain, who ran out 2-0 victors in Shkodër.
They continued their dominance beat Macedonia and Israel 4-0 and 4-1 respectively, before making it a double over the former in Skopje as Silva and Costa netted for a 2-1 win.
It was starting to get into the business end of qualification when Italy travelled to Spain for the return leg.
Aside from the draw in the reverse fixture, La Roja and the Azzurri had won every game and were tied at the top, with just four goals separating them on goal difference.
Yet, Spain made home advantage count, beating the Italians 3-0 in Alicante to all-but secure top spot.
Spain are going to the World Cup
Victories over Liechtenstein (8-0) and Albania (3-0) put La Roja on the brink of booking their place at the World Cup and it was confirmed when Italy failed to beat Macedonia in the penultimate round, giving them an unassailable five-point advantage.
The final match of the qualification stage saw Spain head to Jerusalem with Asier Illarramendi netting to give them a 1-0 win and see the Iberian nation finish their qualifying campaign unbeaten.
Through their route to the World Cup finals, it became apparent that La Roja had goalscorers through their squad.
Costa, Isco, Silva and Morata all finished on five goals, while 10 other players found the scoresheet on at least one occasion.
Now they head to Russia, their 15th World Cup campaign, looking to be crowned the best footballing nation once again.