Durban: Fernando Llorente has been surprised by the praise heaped on him after his match-turning performance in Spain’s 1-0 second round victory over Portugal on Tuesday.
The powerful striker replaced the misfiring Fernando Torres shortly after halftime in Cape Town and succeeded in causing chaos amongst the Portugal defenders where Torres, who has recently returned from a knee surgery, had failed.
Llorente’s performance, in which he twice came close to scoring and was involved in the build-up to David Villa’s winning goal, has prompted debate about whether coach Vicente del Bosque should deploy him from the start.
“I wasn’t expecting all this (praise) but I was keen to get a chance,” Llorente told a news conference at Spain’s training base in Potchefstroom on Thursday.
“It has all been really nice and playing a part in such an morale-boosting victory was even better,” he added.
Asked whether he had played well enough to earn a place in the European champions’ starting 11 for Saturday’s quarter-final against Paraguay, Llorente noted that Spain had an embarrassment of riches in their 23-man squad.
“There are players of exceptional quality and they all deserve to play,” the 25-year-old said.
“It’s very difficult to get in the side and the coach is obviously the one who makes the decisions.”
Del Bosque will probably keep faith with Torres in a two-pronged attack with Villa against the Paraguayans as Spain seek a semi-final clash against Argentina or Germany.
Llorente predicted Paraguay would use the same defensive tactics as Spain’s other opponents in South Africa and insisted the team would not abandon their emphasis on an attack-minded style marked by long periods of possession and quick passing.
“We are not going to change anything we have been doing, even though we are certain to come up against a team that sits back,” he said.
“We are used to teams doing that and let’s see if we are capable of getting it right.”