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FIFA World Cup 2018: Spain's golden generation ready for its swansong

Winning two European Championships and a first World Cup, the Spanish were unstoppable from 2008 to 2012

AP | PTI  |  Madrid 

How the World Cup favourites are shaping up

After recent struggles at major tournaments, the remaining stars of Spain's could be facing a last stand at

Winning two and a first World Cup, the Spanish were unstoppable from 2008 to 2012.

But they began to falter at the 2014 World Cup, failing to advance from the group stage, and were eliminated from Euro 2016 in the round of 16. There were doubts new could even secure qualification for this year's before cruised through a group that included

Lopetegui successfully blended emerging talent with the experience provided by veterans to qualify for an 11th straight

Here's a closer look at the team:

COACH

Lopetegui was chosen as Vicente Del Bosque's successor in 2016 after winning trophies of his own with - at the under-19 and under-21 editions of the

But the former goalkeeper's experience coaching at the top level was limited to a couple of lackluster seasons with

The critics who questioned Lopetegui's credentials were silenced when the mild-mannered took Spain on a 19-game unbeaten run.

GOALKEEPERS

Calls for the return of were quickly subdued as impressed with Manchester United and the national team.

Casillas was relegated to the bench for the first time at Euro 2016 and was left out of the squad altogether for

Lopetegui picked Athletic Bilbao's and Napoli's as the reserve goalkeepers.

DEFENDERS

This is likely to be the last World Cup for and Gerard Pique, whose central defensive partnership formed the bedrock of successes in major tournaments.

The 31-year-old Pique plans to stop playing for Spain after the World Cup, and there is a chance the 32-year-old Ramos will join him in international retirement.

They have been playing together in Spain's defense since the 2010 World Cup, when Ramos still played at right back.

Completing the back line will be Jordi Alba, Pique's teammate at Barcelona, on the left and Dani Carvajal, Ramos' teammate at Madrid, on the right.

MIDFIELDERS

will be 34 when starts and it's likely to mark the masterful playmaker's farewell to the international stage.

With impeccable passes and smart ball control, Iniesta continues to control the midfield just as he did while winning three major tournaments. Only his physical condition is a concern as age catches up with the who scored the winning goal in final against the

Sergio Busquets, and Jorge "Koke" Resurreccion are assured of places in the squad for Russia, and the attacking midfielders will include Francisco "Isco" Alarcon, Marco Asensio, and

FORWARDS

Lopetegui had doubts over his strikers, calling up 10 different players in the position in two years.

Atletico Madrid's Diego Costa, Celta Vigo's and Valencia's Rodrigo made the 23-man squad, while Chelsea's was dropped.

Napoli's and Atletico's Victor "Vitolo" Machin also won't make it to

GROUP GAMES

Spain, which will be based in Krasnodar, opens against European champion on June 15. The team will then face on June 20 and finish the group stage against on June 25.

First Published: Mon, June 11 2018. 22:56 IST