Xabi Alonso has claimed that Spain will be among the FIFA World Cup favourites and feels there is no team "that's better than Spain right now". The former Spain midfielder also backed defending champions Germany to reach the semi-finals of the tournament. Alonso said that Brazil, 2014 World Cup hosts, will also be in the running. However, the former Bayern Munich star failed to mention Belgium as one of his favourites, instead opting for Lionel Messi-led Argentina and a star-studded French team.
"I'm not just saying it, but I would put them among the favourites because I don't see any side that's better than Spain right now. I don't know what's going to happen in the games though. Germany are another of the big favourites. They're a very strong side and they're always there or thereabouts. The way they've been playing, it would be a massive surprise if they don't make the semis, because they're the champions and because of the new generation who've come into the team. Brazil are also right in there. I think those three are above the rest. Then there's Argentina, France and maybe a surprise or two," Alonso was quoted as saying by FIFA.com.
Alonso, who was part of the Spanish team that won the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa and UEFA EURO 2008 and 2012, retired from club football last season. Since then, Alonso has on put himself on the road to become a coach and recently concluded a coaching course.
"When you do a course like this you move away from the person you've always been and you get closer to the person you want to become. And that's good. I've always tried to understand the job and how complex it is to be a coach, which has nothing to do with being a footballer," Alonso said.
Spain, the 2010 champions, remain unbeaten under coach Julen Lopetegui, who took over 20 matches ago after the country's elimination from EURO 2016 in the last 16 at the hands of Italy.
The 51-year-old, who replaced Vicente del Bosque in 2016, has won 13 and drawn six of his 19 games in charge of the Spanish national side, to retain the longest current unbeaten streak in international football.
Lopetegui's side begin the 2018 FIFA World Cup campaign against Portugal on June 15 - the first time the nations will have met since the Euro 2012 semi-final, which Spain won on penalties.
The 2010 winners then play Iran on June 20 before completing their Group B schedule against Morocco on June 25.