Spain coach Vicente del Bosque has paid tribute to predecessor Luis Aragones for the part he played in the European champions' record-breaking run.
Spain's 2-0 victory over South Africa in the FIFA Confederations Cup on Saturday earned them a record-breaking 15th successive international win, while the result also saw them equal Brazil's world-leading run of 35 games unbeaten, set between 1993 and 1996. Del Bosque has presided over 13 successive wins since taking over as coach following Spain's success at Euro 2008 and while he admits he is "proud" of the team's achievements, he believes a lot of credit must go to Aragones.
"I have to recognise the merit of my predecessor in the role: Luis left me the toy with the batteries in," he said in AS. "I'm proud. This has been a magnificent group of players since they were small. They had already won titles in the youth sections and have burst out in the senior squad. When I arrived in the role about a year ago I said that my plan was to give continuity to this group of players and to their style of play. We've built on that, we are making the necessary changes and we will stay on this line."
Del Bosque also praised in-form striker David Villa, who has put aside personal distractions regarding his on-off move away from Valencia to score in all three of Spain's Confederations Cup matches so far. Those goals have lifted Villa up to second place in Spain's all-time record goalscoring list with 31 strikes - 13 fewer than leader Raul.
Villa's goals have come in just 47 appearances though, compared to 102 for Real Madrid veteran Raul, and Del Bosque believes it is only a matter of time before the 27-year-old takes over top spot. "I think Villa will score more goals than Raul in the national team, but many records will go as well. Raul, who has been an example, has played 102 matches with Spain and soon other players will overhaul that number," said Del Bosque, referring to the likes of Iker Casillas, Carles Puyol and Xavi, who are all closing in on 100 caps.
Spain are back in action on Wednesday when they play USA in the semi-finals of the FIFA Confederations Cup, where Del Bosque's team will eclipse Brazil's 35-match unbeaten run if they avoid defeat. USA lost two of their three group matches but still managed to book a place in the last four thanks to yesterday's 3-0 win over an Egypt side that had claimed the scalp of Italy in their previous game.
Del Bosque said the US had "deserved" their qualification, adding: "They had Italy against the ropes and heavily beat Egypt, who were until yesterday the revelation of the tournament. They are fast, well organised, and they will come into the match with plenty of desire."