x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

History beckons for Del Bosque

icente del Bosque, the Spain coach, believes his players are ready to make history: They can start by winning a World Cup quarter-final for the first time.

JOHANNESBURG // Vicente del Bosque, the Spain coach, believes his players are ready to make history: They can start by winning a World Cup quarter-final for the first time. Surprisingly, Spain have never advanced to a semi-final match at a World Cup in four opportunities between 1934 and 2002. Standing in their way at Johannesburg's Ellis Park today is a resolute Paraguay team that is the most successful ever sent to a World Cup from the South American nation.

"We know we're in good shape," Del Bosque said. "It's been more than 30 days together training as a team and I think these players want to make history." Spain have once reached the last four at a World Cup, at the quirky 1950 tournament when just 13 teams showed up in Brazil and the four group winners advanced to a round-robin pool to decide the honours. When the World Cup format has used a knockout bracket, Spain have always been stopped at the quarter-final stage.

Del Bosque would not be drawn to suggest the European champions have a golden chance to break the streak, and earn a final four tie against Argentina or Germany. "If you had to choose one of the other seven who reached the quarter-finals, I don't know which one would be the easiest," he said. "Paraguay, like all of the South American teams, show so much character, with players who exercise great pressure. They are players who know their trade, with the ball or without and they have a similar style to Chile, who we already know about."

Paraguay arrive at this stage on the back of three straight clean sheets and goalkeeper Justo Villar expects more of the same "hard work and tactics" against Spain. "It's going to be a good match where you will see two types of football," Villar said. "One side trying to attack skillfully while we try to stop them and try to take advantage of our chances." * AP