David Villa is undoubtedly one of the brightest stars on the global footballing stage, illustrated by his recent big-money move to reigning La Liga and world club champions Barcelona. Next on the agenda for the lethal Spanish sharpshooter is La Roja’s bid for glory at the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™, where the UEFA EURO 2008 winners are firmly considered among the favourites.
Buoyed by that triumph two years ago, but also heeding the warning signs of Spain’s early exits at Germany 2006 and the FIFA Confederations Cup 2009, Villa spoke exclusively to FIFA.com about La Selección’s silky style, their team spirit and their determination to win the FIFA World Cup for the very first time.
FIFA.com: What’s the secret behind Spain’s recent irresistible form?
David Villa: I think that we settled on this style of play a good few years ago. The most important thing is this team wasn't put together a month or two ago, we've been together for three years now. We’ve got an established footballing philosophy and players who are in sync with that philosophy, and there’s no doubt that’s reflected out on the pitch.
What’s your verdict on Spain’s group at South Africa 2010?
We could have been drawn against theoretically tougher opponents, but they’re still going make life difficult for us. We don’t know much about Honduras, but they’re a solid unit and deserved to reach the World Cup. Switzerland are young, dynamic and play a more European style. In my view, Chile are the most dangerous group rivals, given their great performance in South American qualifying. They’re a very compact team, very competitive and also very dangerous going forward.
What do you remember of Germany 2006?
We started out with a comprehensive victory [4-0 against Ukraine] and I got among the goals. The first phase was very good, but then came the game against France [in the Round of 16] when we didn’t play very well and were sent packing. I scored three goals at the tournament but I still ended with a bitter taste in my mouth.
Then came the triumph at EURO 2008. Was that something of a watershed for Spanish football?
Of course. The dynamic [in the national squad] was what needed to change, more so than our footballing ability. Ideas like 'Spain play nice football but go home early', 'they think they’re champions before the tournament even starts' and 'Spain are unlucky in penalty shoot-outs' are now a thing of the past. And I think that will remain the case for many years to come.
How does the current national squad differ from the class of 2008?
They’re pretty much the same. This squad’s got more young players, a few things have been tweaked, but the structure of the team remains intact. We’ve got plenty of football still in us, a lot of seasons still to play together and we’ve already won trophies. This team is a continuation of the previous one.
However, last year’s FIFA Confederations Cup campaign didn’t go according to plan. What did you learn from that tournament?
Something we already knew from previous tournaments: one off-day can see you eliminated. We didn’t find our best form against the United States [in the semi-finals]. I'm not saying we played badly, because we created a lot of goalscoring chances, but we couldn't take them and got knocked out.
How would you describe the strike pairing made up of you and Fernando Torres?
We’ve been playing together for a long time now. The fact that we get on well together makes a difference out on the field. That’s not vital, because at the end of the day you only really need to click on the pitch, but because we’re friends it makes everything very positive. The way he plays really brings the best out of me and vice-versa. We’ve got a good partnership and have been proving that for some time.
And what’s your verdict on the Xavi-Andres Iniesta axis, who are now team-mates of yours with La Selección and at club level with Barcelona?
As well as being very clever players, they’ve got a freshness to their play, they’re been performing together for a very long time and they know the national team’s playing style inside out. They play on instinct, which really eases the pressure on our defence because we usually have the ball. It also means that us strikers need to be ready to receive the ball at any moment.
Do you think having your club situation sorted out prior to the tournament will make a difference?
Throughout my playing career I’ve never had a quiet summer. Whichever club I’ve been at there have always been other sides sniffing around and that’s put added pressure on me. There’s no doubt that freeing myself of all that makes a difference.
Finally, the record books show that only one team, West Germany in 1972 and 1974, have followed up victory in the European Championship with FIFA World Cup success. What are your thoughts on that?
Well, these types of records are there to be broken and let’s hope that’s the case this time too.