Cesc Fabregas will struggle to improve on his performance in the first half of Spain’s win over Uruguay last Sunday. The Barcelona midfielder played pretty much the perfect game – popping up everywhere, teasing the usually solid Charrúa defence with his close control and dribbling, and then setting up Roberto Soldado for La Roja’s second goal with a pinpoint pass. So good was the assist, in fact, that the Valencia forward said half the goal belonged to Fabregas.
His central role in Spain’s impressive start was all a far cry from December 2011, when the No10 lamented his lack of opportunities in the national side in an interview with FIFA.com: “I hope to be more involved. I’ve been with the team for six years now but have never felt like a starter. Yes, I’ve had playing time here and there, but it’s hard to really show your worth when you have so little time.”
Following the 2-1 defeat of La Celeste, however, Fabregas was far more content with his lot.
Back in the limelight
Speaking exclusively to FIFA.com after his virtuoso show at Arena Pernambuco, the creative midfielder said: “We played well and it was the complete performance. The important thing is the three points and the way we controlled the whole game, not the way I played. A start like this always gives you confidence for what lies ahead.”
Despite the quality of the performance against Uruguay, Cesc believes both he and his side have room for improvement: “I’ve been playing for Spain for eight years, which is a long time, and I can remember some games we’ve played and some individual performances where we’ve been at a similar level. The important thing, though, is that we played well and I felt comfortable. That’s what counts to my mind.”
I think moving to Barcelona was a very important step for me, because of the system and also because you’re playing with the best, which means you automatically have to move up a level.
The 26-year-old went on to acknowledge that his status in the team has changed considerably since that interview he gave 18 months ago. “The boss has made me feel special in that time,” the former Arsenal man said with a smile. “I started virtually all the games at the EURO and I’ve been in the side a lot since then too. I’m very happy about that, especially as it’s all been down to hard work and staying patient.”
Explaining the reason behind the improvement in his game, Fabregas pointed to his club career: “I think moving to Barcelona was a very important step for me, because of the system and also because you’re playing with the best, which means you automatically have to move up a level to match the standards they set. You learn something in every training session and you have to give your very best.”
The glory trail
As the only major trophy they have yet to win, the FIFA Confederations Cup is a key objective for the reigning world and two-time European champions, though Fabregas feels they have some way to go before they can contemplate taking it home with them: “I wouldn’t say we’re the favourites.
"We’re just trying to play our game and our tournament. We can win it, just as long as we do what we know best, which is to keep possession and control the pace of the game. When we do that, we’re very difficult to beat, as we’ve shown.”
Fabregas’ caution can perhaps be explained by the fact that there is no tournament that goes by without some pundits suggesting that Spain’s domination is about to come to an end.
In his opinion, the only way to respond to the doubters is to keep on winning: “We hear the same thing at every tournament. The only thing we can do is to keep on playing and prove that’s not the case.
"At the end of the day, it’s not opinions that matter but what happens on the pitch. The thing is, with the social networks you have a lot more people with things to say now, and it’s only normal that you hear and read things like that. All we can do is show them they’re wrong.”
Firm words from Fabregas, who is ready to keep on breaking new ground with Spain. So how far does he think the team go? The answer is unequivocal: “As far as we want. This team’s made a habit of doing well and has a style all of its own. As long as we can maintain the standards we’ve set, there’s no reason why we can’t keep these good vibrations going.”