Australia vs. Spain, 2014 World Cup preview: Will Vicente del Bosque cast off his old guard?

David Ramos

Spain and Australia are playing for pride alone with both teams already eliminated from the tournament, and all eyes will be on the makeup of the Spanish side.

SB Nation's 2014 World Cup Bracket'

Spain and Australia will contest a game that will effectively be a dead rubber as the two sides to be first eliminated from the 2014 World Cup face off.

Despite the same result, it has been a World Cup of contrasts for both sides. Spain have suffered a disastrous tournamen, seeing their title defense extinguished after just two games. Australia are also out, but have entertained and impressed in being unlucky to lose both of their encounters.

A scalp against a team who are still World Champions will be motivation enough for Australia, while Spain will want to avoid further embarrassment and perhaps take out some of their frustration on a team that is on paper a long way beneath them. But with the mood in the Spain camp as it currently is, anything is possible.

Team news

There are no new injury problems for Spain, although Vicente del Bosque may wish to try something different in the wake of such a calamitous tournament. Koke, Pedro or Juan Mata could be tested, or equally there could be an emotional farewell to the World Cup from the likes of David Villa and Xavi. What kind of team del Bosque will use is anyone's guess - it's too late for his team to save their tournament, but with the veteran coach aiming to keep his job, he may wish to give his country's fans a glimpse of their future by using younger players.

Australia, meanwhile, will be without Tim Cahill, who scored a stunning volley in their last game against the Netherlands. The veteran forward is suspended for the match, although there are no other injury concerns. Rotation is less probable for the Socceroos, although they could still use the lack of pressure to experiment.

Projected lineups (left to right)

Australia (4-2-3-1): Mathew Ryan; Jason Davidson, Matthew Spiranovic, Alex Wilkinson, Ryan McGowan; James Holland, Mile Jedinak; Tommy Oar, Mark Bresciano, James Troisi; Mathew Leckie.

Spain (4-2-3-1): Pepe Reina; Jordi Alba, Sergio Ramos, Javi Martinez, Juanfran; Sergio Busquets, Koke; Andres Iniesta, Cesc Fabregas, Santiago Cazorla; Fernando Torres.

Key matchups

Koke vs Mile Jedinak

Koke is likely to get a start and will be tasked with taking control of the game for Spain, and he'll be up against decent opposition in Jedinak. The Atletico Madrid midfielder will need to make sure he doesn't give the Australians any time on the ball in midfield to stake his claim as the natural replacement for Xavi.

Mathew Leckie vs. Sergio Ramos

Tim Cahill is suspended and won't be at the next World Cup for Ausrtalia. That means that Leckie needs to show what he can do as a striker, and although Sergio Ramos can be a world-class defender, he can also be a liability. There's plenty of opportunity for Leckie to show what he can do and maybe score again for his country.

Prediction

With new players injected in, Spain should probably have some hunger, but Australia won't make it easy for them. Spain should edge it, but Australia can make it three game in a row to stop their opponents keeping a clean sheet. 3-2 Spain.

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