After all, Vicente del Bosque had at his disposal a squad of players at the peak of their powers, built around the philosophy of Pep Guardiola's all-conquering Barcelona side. What's more, they had ended their 44-year wait for a major trophy just two years earlier at Euro 2008.
However, those that had backed La Roja would have been sweating going into their final group encounter against Chile, which was played four years ago today in Pretoria. Switzerland caused a major shock by defeating the Spaniards in the group opener and although they overcame Honduras next time out, Del Bosque's men knew that only a win against their South American counterparts would guarantee progression into the knockout stages.
As such, Spain attacked from the first whistle, with Fernando Torres twice spurning opportunities. However, his strike partner, David Villa, made no mistake in the 24th minute. Chile goalkeeper Claudio Bravo raced off his line to thwart Gerard Pique's long ball, but only succeeded in picking out Villa 40 yards from goal. Rather than control the ball, the frontman hit it instantly and it looped up over a retreating Bravo and into the net.
The lead was then doubled 13 minutes later as Andres Iniesta, who had struggled for fitness over the previous three months, found the bottom corner having exchanged passes with first Torres and then Villa. A sucker punch soon followed for Chile when the referee handed Marco Estrada his second yellow card for a trip on Torres.
Nevertheless, Chile refused to accept their fate and just two minutes after the restart, they halved the deficit. Substitute Rodrigo Millar's shot was lacking in power, but it deflected off Pique, which left Iker Casillas helpless as the ball nestled in his goal.
Despite their numerical disadvantage, the Chileans poured forward in search of an equaliser that would have secured top spot, but Spain held firm as both sides advanced.
"I think we've overcome a very difficult time. We were very disturbed emotionally by the defeat to Switzerland but we are more optimistic now and I'm sure that will be reflected on the pitch," winning head coach Del Bosque told reporters after the final whistle.
Meanwhile, Chile boss Marcelo Bielsa defended his team's physical style, saying: "We are not a team that plays tough but we do try to get the ball back quickly, but Spain are different. They move the ball very well and we were simply too late to get it. I don't think we used force excessively. We didn't have bad intentions."
SPAIN: Casillas; Capdevila, Pique, Puyol, Ramos; Busquets, Alonso (Martinez), Xavi; Iniesta; Torres (Fabregas), Villa
CHILE: Bravo; Carrizo, Medel, Jara, Isla; Gonzalez (Paredes), Vidal, Estrada, Valdivia (Millar), Beausejour; Sanchez (Orellana)