Del Bosque warns Spain is primed
© AFP

Spain coach Vicente del Bosque warned that his team is in prime condition despite a gruelling season and are pumped up to win the FIFA Confederations Cup South Africa 2009. The European champions are on a phenomenal 32-match unbeaten streak and open their tournament in this mining town on Sunday against New Zealand. Del Bosque, the former Real Madrid coach, said he had already picked his starting 11, but was not prepared to reveal names.

"I have my 11 players for Sunday, but fortunately I have a squad of 23 and they are all the best and can perform well," he said, adding that there were no injury worries.

"We have had a very intense season, but I believe that physically and mentally the team is fine and the team will start in the best of condition." Captain Iker Casillas, who will win his 93rd cap on Sunday, echoed his coach's confident tone.

"I believe we are one of the favourites, we have been working together now for two years as a team," said the Real Madrid goalkeeper. "We've had a long season, but we are full of optimism. The feeling is that there's a confidence in the team now.

"We are getting further in competitions," he said. "Historically, Spain has suffered at the hands of big national teams, but now it is our turn to improve and reach the finals of the big competitions."

We will just play our football. That's what brought us here and hopefully we will win this competition.
Spain coach Vicente del Bosque

Spain, who have not lost since November 2006, should have little problem dispatching New Zealand, but Del Bosque is too experienced to be complacent, warning that no team should be underestimated. He pointed to New Zealand scoring three goals against world champions Italy in a warm-up match last week that they eventually lost 4-3.

"I saw the game against Italy and we saw what New Zealand are really all about," he said. "They are an organised team, very good at set-plays, and if you don't respect the opposing team you could slip up."

Despite his caution, Spain are undeniably favourites, not just to beat New Zealand, but to win the FIFA Confederations Cup, despite the presence of Italy and five-time world champions Brazil. With the exception of Andres Iniesta, who has pulled out injured, Del Bosque has at his disposal a glittering array of talent headed by Liverpool striker Fernando Torres and his partner up front David Villa of Valencia. In midfield are the likes of Arsenal's Cesc Fabregas, Liverpool's Xabi Alonso and Barcelona's Xavi, while the commanding presence of Casillas will keep goal.

While the coach was happy to run with the favourites tag, he said the standard of the teams here was exceptional and any of them could win."There are champions from other competitions here as well. There's a lot of good teams," said Del Bosque.

"We've seen Brazil play, we know all about Italy, and even Egypt could win this."

Casillas added that it was a proud moment to be seen as favourites in a tournament that also features Brazil.

"We feel proud, but it doesn't mean we are over-confident," he said. "We will just play our football. That's what brought us here and hopefully we will win this competition."