Spain Camp Focus – Spain’s six appeal tears Poles apart ahead of World Cup

If you haven’t seen Spain’s second goal from their 6-0 World Cup warm up victory over Poland yet, then this writer suggests that you quickly do so. Andres Iniesta’s sublime chip took the entire Polish defence out of the game, allowing Xavi to easily pick out David Silva, who had a tap in. It was a moment that confirmed everything that football fans know about this Spanish team –they are currently playing the most free-flowing, easy on the eye, brilliant to watch football in the world.

That win in Murcia underlined just how many attacking options they have. As well as Silva, David Villa, Xabi Alonso, Cesc Fabregas, Fernando Torres and Pedro got on the scoresheet, showing that the Spaniards can literally score from anywhere, simultaneously dispelling any lingering doubts about the form of La Roja ahead of the finals. Late winners were needed were beat Saudi Arabia 3-2 and then the Korea Republic 1-0, but in their last match ahead of the finals the Spanish really hit the goal trail. The identities of some of those goalscorers were vital too. Torres would have been relieved to hit the back of a net for the first time since Liverpool’s 4-1 win over Benfica two months ago, Fabregas now looks fully fit after missing the last couple of months of Arsenal’s season and Pedro’s first goal for Spain was as welcome as it was deserved. He was brilliant after replacing the injured Iniesta in the first half, and is still a good bet to force his way into Vicente de Bosque’s squad ahead of the finals.

The win over Poland was Spain’s 16th in their last 17 games, establishing them firmly as the form team ahead of the tournament. That injury to the dynamic Iniesta is a concern, but Spanish team doctors remain confident that he should be fit for the team’s opener against Switzerland in Durban on Wednesday. The Swiss must have been watching that Poland game, and will be determined not to roll over when they come up against the Spanish superpower.

Just which players they’ll be coming up against is still up for debate however. Torres’ half an hour and his goal ensured that he has now surely won his fitness race to be ready in time, and will partner Villa upfront, while behind them some tough decisions have to be made. Xavi and Iniesta (if fit) look like obvious choices, with Alonso and Silva tipped to join them in the midfield. The fact that this possible selection means that the likes of Fabregas, Pedro, Juan Mata, Jesus Navas and Sergio Busquets will be watching on from the bench surely means that the Spanish have the strongest squad in the competition – and the battle for places doesn’t end there. The first choice defence looks like being Joan Capdevila, Carles Puyol, Gerard Pique and Sergio Ramos, but any of Raul Albiol, Alvaro Arbeloa or Carlos Marchena could slot in there with a minimum of fuss. Iker Casillas will of course be in goal, but do any nations in South Africa have better backup than Pepe Reina and Victor Valdes?

As the Swiss prepare for an enormous challenge in their first World Cup game, one can be certain that the rest of the nations will be watching on too, eager to see just how good the Spanish can be. England captain Steven Gerrard is just one of a host of top names to heap praise upon them – he should know after playing with Torres, Reina, Alonso and Arbeloa – and it must be tough for Spain to remain humble as they aim to try and reach the semi-finals for the first time since 1950.

They should surely do that, on paper at least, but this World Cup isn’t being played on paper, and del Bosque faces the tough task of making sure his players don’t believe their own hype. They haven’t won the tournament yet. They won’t win it just by turning up, but right now – and in this form – it is hard to back against them. Just ask Poland.

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