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Chile stand in Spain's way at WC

Spain go into their final Group H match on Friday needing a victory to secure a spot in the round of 16.

Associated Press

Updated:June 25, 2010, 1:20 AM IST
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Chile stand in Spain's way at WC
Spain go into their final Group H match on Friday needing a victory to secure a spot in the round of 16.

Pretoria: Chile is standing in the way of Spain's lofty World Cup hopes, as the European champions go into their final Group H match on Friday needing a victory to secure a spot in the round of 16.

With both Switzerland and Honduras still in the mix for one of the last two places in the next round, Spain knows it's time to live up to pre-tournament expectations or go home early.

"Tomorrow there's a lot of pressure, that is clear," Spain midfielder Xavi Hernandez said on Thursday. "We're going to go for them. It could be a spectacular game."

But whether it's the World Cup favorite tag slapped on it, overconfidence, fatigue after long club seasons or tactical changes, Spain hasn't quite been able to emulate the attractive play that led it to its European title two years ago.

Despite dominating opponents, Spain has only scored twice, both coming from David Villa in a 2-0 win over Honduras. Switzerland stifled the Spanish in a 1-0 win that led to questions about coach Vicente del Bosque's tinkering with the team as he prefers defensive midfielders Sergio Busquets and Xabi Alonso over attacking players Cesc Fabregas and David Silva.

"We never said we were favorites to win anything," Del Bosque said. "We know we still have a chance so now we need to save the situation and reach the (next round)."

Chile, with six points, needs only a draw at Loftus Versfeld to win the group. Spain and Switzerland each have three points, while Honduras has zero.

The winner of the group, which could come down to goal difference if there is a three-way tie on points, is also likely to avoid a matchup with Group G leader Brazil.

Chile coach Marcelo Bielsa said the South Americans would not be settling for a draw.

"I think going for a draw would be more difficult than going for a win," said Bielsa, who led his team to back-to-back 1-0 wins. "Everyone prefers a game with goals over one without, an open game over a defensive one."

Bielsa's love of attacking football should provide an exciting finale to the group stage and be nothing like the two teams' previous encounter in 2008 — a 3-0 win for Spain. Chile has never beaten Spain in the teams' past seven matches, losing six.

"Our intention is to better the rival, to be the protagonist — that's what we're going to do tomorrow," Bielsa said. "We'll try to win the ball and attack, and defend. But we'll have to defend a lot."

Spain will have Villa in attack after avoiding a FIFA ban for slapping an opponent, while Fernando Torres should also start despite missing three scoring chances against Honduras.

"You've got to believe that he will find his accuracy," Del Bosque said of the Liverpool striker, who looked rusty after starting for the first time since knee surgery.

While Spain frets over which superstar will become a super sub, Bielsa is without suspended midfielders Carlos Carmona and Matias Fernandez. Jorge Valdivia will likely fill in for Fernandez, while striker Humberto Suazo is also available. Del Bosque may opt for Alvaro Arbeloa in place of Joan Capdevila at fullback in what is also expected to be a physical match.

Both teams trained at their team bases on Thursday with the Loftus Versfeld field in a delicate state.

Chile has extra motivation from a Chilean flag that was pulled from the wreckage left behind by the earthquake and tsunami that hit the South American country in February, killing more than 500 people and leaving 200,000 homeless.

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