Soccer-Spain World Cup draw factbox

Reuters

MADRID, Nov 27 (Reuters) - Factbox on World Cup holders

Spain:

Form and Prospects

Although the holders ultimately qualified comfortably for

the finals, they struggled at times against the ultra-defensive

tactics that the vast majority of their opponents fall back on.

Always able to dominate possession for long periods, they

found it tough to break through massed ranks of defenders and

1-1 qualifying draws at home to Finland and France exposed a

worrying inability to kill opponents off and a weakness for

conceding late goals.

Coach Vicente del Bosque has a settled defence and a

midfield built around the Barcelona trio of Xavi, Sergio

Busquets and Andres Iniesta and Real Madrid's Xabi Alonso but it

is up front where he faces perhaps his most difficult choices.

Often foregoing a traditional centre forward, Del Bosque has

regularly deployed Barca playmaker Cesc Fabregas in a roving

'false nine' role with the likes of David Silva, Pedro, David

Villa and Jesus Navas buzzing around on either wing.

The coach can also turn to the more muscular talents of

strikers like Alvaro Negredo, Fernando Llorente and Atletico

Madrid's Brazil-born forward Diego Costa who has chosen to make

himself available for his adopted country.

With his intelligent runs, strength on the ball, deadly

finishing and prowess in the air, Costa could be just the player

Spain need to unsettle opposition defences and he has some of

the world's best passers to provide him with service.

Another conundrum for Del Bosque is the goalkeeping slot

with captain Iker Casillas, a fixture for Spain for more than a

decade, out of favour at Real.

Victor Valdes has been in inspired form for Barca this

season but dropping Casillas, even if he is not playing

regularly for Real, could unsettle the defence.

Del Bosque will want to avoid a repeat of June's

Confederations Cup final, when an aggressive Brazil beat them

3-0 in Rio de Janeiro, so expect a more physical approach from a

Spanish team that will still look to wear opponents down by

dominating possession.

Coach: Vicente del Bosque

Del Bosque pledged continuity when he succeeded Luis

Aragones after Spain's victory at Euro 2008 and delivered

spectacularly by leading the country to their first World Cup

triumph in South Africa two years later and a second straight

European Championship crown in 2012.

A self-confessed football romantic, the mild-mannered

62-year-old has led 'La Roja' to 68 wins in 84 matches,

including an unbeaten qualifying campaign for next year's

finals.

While Aragones favoured a brasher style and provoked his

players in order to inspire them, Del Bosque is a more avuncular

figure, quietly coaxing the best out of a hugely talented squad

and fostering a harmonious atmosphere.

"It is better to lose than project a negative image," he has

said. "You have to behave well and play fair."

Key player: Andres Iniesta

The 29-year-old Andres Iniesta will always have a special

place in the hearts of Spanish fans for scoring the dramatic

extra-time goal that secured the country's first World Cup.

The pale, shy midfielder from the Manchegan village of

Fuentealbilla has perhaps not been at his scintillating best

this season but has a habit of scoring vital goals for club and

country.

His extra-time winner against Chelsea in the semi-finals of

the Champions League in 2009 showcased his fabulous technique

and he popped up in exactly the right place to smash home the

116th-minute winner against Netherlands in the 2010 World Cup

final in Johannesburg.

Xavi, Fabregas and Villa have strong cases for being

considered Spain's star player but it will be no surprise if

Iniesta again proves decisive at the finals.

How they qualified: Winners European Group I

2012

Sept 11 Georgia A W 1-0 Soldado

Oct 12 Belarus A W 4-0 Pedro 3, Alba

Oct 16 France H D 1-1 Ramos

2013

March 22 Finland H D 1-1 Ramos

March 26 France A W 1-0 Pedro

Sept 6 Finland A W 2-0 Alba, Negredo

Oct 11 Belarus H W 2-1 Xavi, Negredo

Oct 15 Georgia H W 2-0 Negredo, Mata

World Cup record:

Previous appearances: 13 (1934, 1950, 1962, 1966, 1978,

1982, 1986, 1990, 1994, 1998, 2002, 2006, 2010)

Best performances: Winners 2010

Odds: William Hill odds to win World Cup (Nov 2013): 5-1

(Reporting by Iain Rogers editing by Tony Jimenez)