Spain can expect some chilly temperatures in Durban when they take on Switzerland in what will be their 50th FIFA World Cup™ finals match. The heat will almost certainly be on the Swiss, however, who have yet to beat La Roja in 18 attempts.
Having barely put a foot wrong in the last two years, Spain will take the stage at South Africa 2010 amid high expectation. Last week's 6-0 demolition of Poland represented the perfect send-off for a mature and settled side that has been boosted by the recent return to fitness of Fernando Torres and Cesc Fabregas, both of whom have shaken off worrying late-season injuries. The only question mark hangs over Andres Iniesta. Although coach Vicente del Bosque said the Barcelona wizard would recover from his niggles in time, Iniesta has been training at a slower pace than his team-mates in recent days.
The Swiss have plenty of injury problems of their own to ponder. Alexander Frei and Valon Behrami are definitely out, forcing Nati coach Ottmar Hitzfeld to reshuffle his pack. Switzerland's recent form is also a cause for concern, defeats by Costa Rica, Norway and Uruguay having raised doubts about their ability to match their run to the last 16 at Germany 2006 – one they are hoping to repeat, at the very least, this time around.
When Fabregas signed for Arsenal in 2003 the richly gifted midfielder shared a house with the tall central defender, himself of Spanish descent. Senderos, recently signed by Fulham, took his new team-mate under his wing and the pair built up a strong friendship over the next few seasons. Should Del Bosque be forced to bring in Cesc for Iniesta, the two will renew acquaintances in the most challenging of circumstances.
394 - The number of minutes Switzerland have gone without conceding a goal at the FIFA World Cup finals. The Swiss kept clean sheets in every one of their games at Germany 2006, going out on penalties to Ukraine in the Round of 16. As fate would have it, it was the Spanish who were the last team to score against them on this stage, midfielder Txiki Beguiristain netting the third in a 3-0 victory in the last 16 at USA 1994.
What they say
"The Spanish aren't just technical, they run a lot too. We'll need to be compact at the back, defend with nine men and hit them on the break when we can. We also need to get in among their midfielders and force some free-kicks. That's where we can be very dangerous," Ottmar Hitzfeld, Switzerland coach.
"When you're a striker with this national team you can't just stand around, waiting for a chance to come along. You have to keep moving, help out on the flanks and keep changing positions with the other forwards, and you have to use the whole width of the pitch. I score goals because I play for the team," David Villa, Spain forward.
Voice of the fans
"On paper Spain are better than Switzerland but anything can happen in a one-off game. Keeping a clean sheet is the key and that won't be easy against the Swiss with all their firepower. A goal or two up front looks a certainty, though I'm not expecting a big win. The Swiss have got their feet on the ground and they'll have done their homework," Meine74 (Spain), FIFA.com user.
Can Spain pierce the Swiss defence? Will Die Nati record their first ever win over the Spanish?