x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Spain looking irresistible

Vicente del Bosque, the Spain coach, is backing his record-breaking side to continue going from strength to strength.

Spain players congratulate David Villa, No 7, after the striker scores the first goal in Spain's 2-0 win over the Confederations Cup hosts South Africa.
Spain players congratulate David Villa, No 7, after the striker scores the first goal in Spain's 2-0 win over the Confederations Cup hosts South Africa.

Vicente del Bosque, the Spain coach, has backed his record-breaking side to continue going from strength to strength. The European champions became the first international side to claim 15 successive wins with a 2-0 triumph over South Africa in the Confederations Cup, eclipsing the mark jointly held by Brazil, Australia, and France.

The result also saw Spain equal Brazil's world-leading run of 35 games unbeaten, set between 1993 and 1996, and they will claim that record outright if they avoid defeat in the Confederations Cup semi-finals. It has been a remarkable run of success for the Iberian nation and Del Bosque sees no reason why it will not continue. When asked if he thought his team's hunger would be diminished in the wake of their achievements, Del Bosque said: "I don't think so. This team will break many more records. Some day we will lose, but until that happens we need to continue enjoying it. I'm proud of this group."

Delighted though he was with the win over South Africa and the world record, Del Bosque admits that he places getting through to the last four of the Confederations Cup higher than anything else. "I'm happy with both things, but above all getting through to the semi-finals. We've come here to win the Confederations Cup," he added. The striker Fernando Torres, meanwhile, expects opposing sides to be even more determined to beat Spain in the future.

"We're very happy because we will go down in history with these two records. "If they haven't been broken in so much time it's because it isn't easy to do it," he said. "We know that it's going to be harder each time to win games, that's normal. Our opponents are going to know more about us, and they will also want to beat us because defeating Spain now is like it was before to beat Brazil or Argentina."

His strike partner David Villa, was delighted to end a week that began with increased speculation about his future on a positive note. Villa has been linked with a move to Chelsea, Manchester United, Liverpool, Real Madrid and Barcelona but Valencia announced on Friday that the forward is not for sale "Last week was not easy at all," he said. "I admit that it's been bad for me. I wouldn't wish all this on anybody but, with the advice of my family, I've erased it all from my mind.

"Also I've tried to have respect for the national team and my team-mates. I don't want them to see what I'm going through, "Away from the pitch there are times when I'm worse. Nevertheless, when I go out on the pitch I try to show what I can do. "On the pitch is where I feel better and I'm proud to be part of this national team, not only for the great team that it is but also for the great human quality."

Spain are back in action on Wednesday when they play the runners-up of Group B in the semi-final. South Africa, meanwhile, were happy to have reached the semi-finals. "For us it's great relief and it's history too for us to make the semi-finals of a competition like this," said the captain Aaron Mokoena. "It's a good feeling to get to the semi-final but there are mixed feelings too after the loss. But we were beaten by a big country with good players. Getting to the semi-finals is a big positive and is encouraging and shows we have some direction."

South Africa finished runners-up behind Spain after Iraq failed to beat New Zealand. "There is a sense of relief but we have qualified and that was our goal," said the midfielder Steven Pienaar. "Spain are not ranked number one for nothing and it showed we still have a lot to learn. It was a great experience for us. This is a good challenge for us as we prepare for the World Cup." * With agencies