“It’s a huge blow,” said midfield maestro Xavi Hernandez after Spain’s unexpected 1-0 defeat to Switzerland, summing up the sense of dejection in La Roja camp. Bloodied but unbowed, the Spaniards still believe firmly in their own abilities, however, and remain committed to their seductive passing game.
Proof of that came when striker David Villa spoke exclusively to FIFA.com after the game. “We need to keep on working,” said the Barcelona striker, who endured a frustrating afternoon in Durban, searching in vain for a chink in Switzerland’s defensive armour. “We don’t have any margin for error now and we can’t afford any more slip-ups. We’ve got to try and win our next two games.”
Asked for an explanation for Wednesday’s shock defeat, El Guaje was almost at a loss for words. “It was a strange game, just like the one against USA at the Confederations Cup last year. The Swiss defended extremely well and made life really hard for us.”
Though understandably disappointed with the outcome, the former Valencia hitman is still a passionate believer in the Spanish style: “We tried to play our game but we didn’t manage to get the penetration we usually do. We’re going to carry on playing the same way, though.”
With coach Vicente del Bosque opting for two holding midfielders in Xabi Alonso and Sergio Busquets, Villa was forced to plough a lone furrow up front, not that the diminutive striker sees that as an excuse for his fruitless performance: “This isn’t the time to start questioning the way we play. We need to stick together right now and find a way to win the two games we’ve got left. The good thing is we’ve got it out of the way and we are convinced we can turn this around.”
The chance to do just that will come on Monday, when the reigning European champions take on Honduras at Ellis Park in Johannesburg. Los Catrachos, who also lost their Group H opener, are appearing in only their second world finals, the first being Spain 1982, when they held the hosts to a goalless draw at the Estadio Luis Casanova in Valencia. Villa, who was six months old at the time, does not fear a repeat: “We’ve just lost but that’s no reason for us to go into the next game scared of defeat.”
Though the media are interpreting Spain’s shock reverse as something of a humbling, Villa rejects any suggestion that he and his team-mates have gone into the tournament believing themselves to be favourites. “The only ones who’ll say we’ve been humbled are the people who’ve been saying we’re the favourites,” counters Villa. “The players have always called for calm and what happened today showed we’ve been right to do that. We’ve always said that anyone can make life difficult for you and we weren’t wrong. That’s why our conscience is clear right now.”
Villa and his fellow strikers have had it tough at the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™ so far, with goals proving hard to come by, though the Spanish hotshot sees that as entirely logical: “The teams have a lot of respect for each other, especially in the first round, with everyone feeling their way into what is such an important competition. All I want is for the goals to flow again when Spain play.”
Should they do so, there is a good chance Villa will be involved somewhere.