Sidelined by a broken leg sustained as recently as 31 March, Cesc Fabregas was in genuine danger of missing the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™.
The young Gunner has shown impressive determination in recovering ahead of schedule, however, and is fit and available for La Roja’s Group H opener against Switzerland on 16 June in Durban. “It’s very important to win your first game, especially for the team’s confidence,” said Fabregas, who was involved in Spain’s winning starts to the last two major finals: Germany 2006 and the UEFA EURO 2008.
“That said, sometimes the champions are a team which starts slowly, which is hard to understand because winning your opening game is vital for squad morale. A win boosts the mood in the camp, makes you feel more relaxed and eases the pressure. A defeat makes the going even harder, creates more stress and isn’t good for the squad.”
Another thing which can have a negative effect on a national squad is transfer speculation, with Fabregas the focus of rumours linking him with a move from Arsenal back to boyhood club Barcelona. “I don’t have much time to think about that, to be honest,” midfielder told FIFA. “We’re concentrating on our morning and afternoon training sessions, we’ve got to get enough rest and when you do have free time you spend it with your mates. We’re busy all day.”
Up against him in Wednesday’s game will be his good friend and former team-mate at the Emirates Stadium: Switzerland defender Philippe Senderos. “I hope they go through to the second round along with us, because he was like an older brother to me when I arrived in London. We’ve virtually grown up together, we lived together for nearly three years and he helped me a lot. Without his help I don’t know if I’d have settled so quickly.”
Though Fabregas did not reveal whether strikers David Villa and Fernando Torres had asked for tips on how to outdo the rugged Swiss centre-back, the gifted playmaker did underline just how thoroughly La Selección boss Vicente del Bosque has scouted their group rivals: “We are given loads of information about our opponents.
"We start watching videos of the opposition two or three days before each game. So we know, more or less, who will start for them. Of course there may be the odd change but we basically know almost all there is to know.”
That being the case, and boasting the confidence that EURO 2008 success and a 100 per cent record in qualifying for these finals brings, can anybody stop La Roja at South Africa 2010?