Spain looking to reassert World Cup credentials

Johannesburg: Anything less than a win for
Spain against Honduras tomorrow could see one of the
pre-tournament favorites making an ignominious early exit from
the World Cup.

The shock 1-0 loss to Switzerland in its opening game was
only the second defeat for Spain in 49 matches and means that
the team cannot afford to slip up again in its remaining two
Group H fixtures.

The 2008 European champions play Honduras at
Johannesburg`s Ellis Park. Both teams lost their opening games
1-0 and trail Switzerland and Chile by three points following
the first round of matches.

Spain striker Fernando Torres is confident that the
team`s bad day has passed and that it will not be leaving the
World Cup early - like many Spanish sides have done in the

The 26-year-old Liverpool striker will be hoping he gets
the nod from coach Vicente del Bosque to start the match,
after coming on as a substitute in the game against

"I`ve been training for more than two weeks with my
teammates and little by little I`ve forgotten about the
injury," said Torres, who is recovering from surgery on his
right knee in April. "It`s up to the coach. He decides."

Alongside forward David Villa, Torres could provide the
extra punch Spain was lacking against the Swiss. Despite
having the bulk of the possession, Spain lacked a cutting edge
against a massed Swiss defense.

"We had chances. We didn`t score a goal and that was the
key. Let`s hope it doesn`t happen again since that would be
odd," Torres said Saturday. "The most important thing is not
to allow anxiety to overwhelm us if minutes pass and we are
not able to score."

Unsurprisingly, Spain has encountered a torrent of
criticism following the Swiss defeat, much of it directed at
the coach.

Former coach Luis Aragones, who led Spain to the 2008
European title, said his successor was wrong in playing two
holding midfielders - Xabi Alonso and Sergio Busquets - and
only Villa up front. That left Torres and creative midfielder
Cesc Fabregas out of the lineup. Fabregas did not even come on
as a substitute.

Defender Gerard Pique said Fabregas could provide what
the Spanish were lacking.

"A lot of touch, the ability to get into the area and
goals," Pique said. "If the coach opts for him, he`ll help us
very much."

Since the defeat, the Spanish players have insisted there
will be no change to the team`s possession-based, quick-touch
game regardless of who starts.

"It`s hard to evaluate, especially since the system
worked well in the warmup games coming in," Alonso said. "The
coach makes the decisions and whatever he decides, the players
back him 100 percent."

Honduras coach Reinaldo Rueda is expecting the full force
of a Spanish backlash.

"We should not be distracted by the (Swiss) result,"
Rueda said. "As one of the favorites and having lost their
first game, Spain will be even more determined."

Rueda, who served a touchline ban in the match against
Chile after having been sent off in Honduras` last qualifier
against El Salvador, will be hoping that his main striker
David Suazo has fully recovered from right thigh injury to be
able to play a part in the match against Spain.

Though ultimately overwhelmed by Chile in the 1-0 defeat,
Honduras showed attacking verve at stages during the match.

Torres said Spain will not be taking the Central American
team lightly.

"They`ve got dangerous players on the counterattack and
they can do us damage if we think it`s going to be easy,"
Torres said. "They`re going to want to win, a draw doesn`t
serve them."


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