Posted June 10, 2013 on AP on Fox
Spain can complete its trophy case with an elusive Confederations Cup title when it heads to Brazil next month. Since winning the first of two European championships in 2008, followed by the last World Cup, a Spain team led by the Barcelona midfield pair of Xavi Hernandez and Andres Iniesta has only slipped once when it truly mattered. That stunning 2-0 loss to the United States deprived it of a chance to face eventual champion Brazil in the 2009 Confederations Cup final in South Africa, even if Spain did return a year later to become world champions in Johannesburg. Spain coach Vicente del Bosque's focus is on repeating that winning formula in 2014 when Brazil hosts football's most honored competition. ''We will look to have a good performance at the Confederations Cup, but, above all, set an example to follow off the field,'' Del Bosque said. While Spain's players and staff become acclimated to the long travel, local culture and new venues for the main event coming in a year's time, they will also be seeking to protect Spain's status as the team to beat for a sixth straight year. Spain opens Group B against Uruguay on Sunday in Recife. It then heads to Rio de Janeiro to play Tahiti on June 20 before wrapping up the group phase against Nigeria three days later in Fortaleza. Besides Brazil, Group A includes Italy, Mexico and Japan, making it on paper the tougher of the two. The top two teams in each group move on to the semifinals, with the final to be held on June 30. ''Not only are there four world champions, but there are countries who are Olympic champions like Mexico and African champions like Nigeria,'' Del Bosque said. ''Japan is one of the countries who have made great progress and any of the teams could be uncomfortable opponents. We will try to be at the level we need to be.'' The preliminary 26-man squad Del Bosque announced is almost identical to the 2012 European Championship team based around the core of nine Barcelona players. The list also includes goalkeeper Iker Casillas, who was out of favor at Real Madrid after breaking his left hand in late January. Del Bosque has defended Casillas and called him a ''symbol'' for the team after including him in the squad, but said he still hasn't ''decided who will start for us.'' Del Bosque's so-called problem up front is one any coach would love to have with David Villa back in the squad after missing the European Championship with a broken leg and Fernando Torres showing improvement at Chelsea. Even so, Del Bosque may stick with the option of aligning Cesc Fabregas as a ''false nine,'' a move that has proven to be highly effective for Spain.
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