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Will Iniesta’s skill save Spain’s place in the World Cup sun?

media Andrés Iniesta in 2011 Reuters/Vasily Fedosenko

Andres Iniesta is acknowledged as one of the greatest players of his generation. Teammate Lionel Messi and Real Madrid’s Cristiano Ronaldo receive the plaudits for their explosive finishing but Iniesta is often behind the moves that allow Messi to flourish. Will he help Spain defend its championship in Brazil in 2014?

Just after the 2010 World Cup final the Spain midfielder, Andres Iniesta, was awarded the man of the match accolade.

Click here for our coverage of Brazil World Cup 2014

In a ceremony in the depths of the Soccer City stadium, a statuesque Penelope-Cruz-lookalike emerged from a corner of the room to clutch Iniesta’s arm and smile.

With the dexterity he’s renowned for on the pitch, the 1m 70cm-tall Iniesta managed to look at the cameras instead of the cleavage heaving in a ridiculously low-cut dress for the freezing temperatures in Johannesburg that night.

Spain are the defending champions and though their cycle of dominance is said to waning, they are still a formidable outfit.

They’re bidding to become only the third country after Italy and Brazil to retain the title.

The feat hasn’t been done since the Brazil double of 1958/62.

Iniesta will be at the heart of that tilt and Barcelona team-mate Xavi will probably be at his side.

But even without his wingman, Iniesta is more than capable of dictating the pace of a game - either by holding the ball in a seemingly midfield time vortex or snapping it forward in the blink of an eye.

He’s also got the dribbling skills which allow him to go for goal, surging in with a turn of pace from left or right.

Spain’s first Group B match of the 2014 tournament is against the Netherlands, the team they beat four years ago to lift the trophy.

Then it was billed as a meeting of the two best sides – technically – at the competition.

Sadly the final became a kickfest which the Dutch won 28 fouls to 19.

Iniesta, however, made the most important mark that chilly night in Johannesburg.

Expect many more crucial interventions in Brazil.

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