Spain ready for US but thinking of BrazilJune 23rd, 2009 - 5:53 pm ICT by IANS
By Brendon Hanley
Bloemfontein, June 23 (DPA) Currently on a 15-match winning streak and seeking a record 36-match unbeaten run, Spain are prohibitive favourites to beat the United States in the semi-finals of the Confederations Cup football Wednesday.
But after the US’s dramatic escape as second-place finishers in Group B, the European champions are worried about underestimating the side that beat Egypt 3-0.
However, the number one team in the world by FIFA’s rankings also has a date in the final with five-time world champions Brazil on their mind.
“We want to beat them, go to the final and face Brazil,” said Barcelona central defender Gerard Pique.
“But, of course, you shouldn’t head into a semi-final dreaming about the final, so we have to be focused on the US from the very first minute.”
Having managed to move from bottom of their group to a spot in the last four based on their victory over the Pharaohs, and Brazil’s win by the same scoreline over Italy, the States have a newly found momentum in a tournament where they lost their first two contests quite handily.
“In the first two matches, the US struggled, but they showed in the third that they’re a great team,” said Pique. “To do what they did, and come out and get a result like that when it matters, you must be a very strong side.”
Villareal left back Joan Capdevila concurred that the result impressed La Furia Roja.
“We didn’t think they could do it,” he said.
“It’s not a big surprise to face the US in the semi-final, but it’s a shock that they got through with only three points and the way they did.”
For their part, the States seemed as surprised and overwhelmed as the rest of the football world the fact that they had managed to move on.
But a team that had nothing to lose and pulled off the impossible is equally as discounted ahead of the contest with Spain, who can break Brazil’s streak for most consecutive matches unbeaten at 36 if they avoid defeat.
“I don’t think many teams go into a game against Spain thinking they’ll win,” said midfield dynamo Landon Donovan, who plays for the L.A. Galaxy.
“But soccer is a crazy game and anything can happen. We’ve proved that.”
Pique, who previously played for Manchester United agreed, saying: “I think we’re favourites just as Brazil are in their other match. But in football there is sometimes no logic and the favourites don’t always win.”
But beyond the team’s abilities he pointed to the fact that this will be Spain’s third consecutive contest at Bloemfontein’s Free State Stadium, while the U.S. have not played there.
“It’s always important to play in a stadium more than once,” he said. “You get used to the pitch and the way things work. For us, it’s maybe an advantage.”
Spain also have an extra day’s rest and coach Vicente del Bosque has rotated his players quite liberally through the group stage.
On the other side, Bob Bradley will have all of his players back from suspension after a red card in each of the first two matches.
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Tags: bloemfontein, brendon, central defender, confederations cup, cup football, dpa, egypt 3, european champions, football world, gerard pique, joan capdevila, la furia, pharaohs, place finishers, scoreline, semi finals, strong side, time world champions, winning streak, world champions brazil