Xavi has admitted Spain need to find their killer touch if they are to win the 2010 FIFA World Cup™ on Sunday. Although the Euro 2008 winners have responded well to their setback in the opening game against Switzerland by reeling off five wins on the trot, the goals have largely dried up.
Liverpool's Fernando Torres was axed for the semi-final win over Germany on Wednesday after failing to find the target at all in South Africa, and three straight single-goal victories in the knockout phase do not hint at a team on top of their game.
Yet Spain are still at their bewitching best outside the box, where Xavi and Andres Iniesta have been toying with a succession of opponents, their latest victims being the German side who had impressed so much earlier in the competition.
But, as they prepare to face Holland at Soccer City tomorrow, Xavi accepts Spain might have to do more. "It is clear we have not scored many goals," said the 30-year-old. "We are feeling very comfortable with the way we are playing, and we are creating plenty of opportunities. Usually when you do that, you tend to get goals. But we are not converting the chances to our normal percentage. Let's see if we can lift that because it will be particularly important tomorrow."
Coach Vicente del Bosque gave nothing away about his intentions. He rejected the theory he was facing a similar dilemma to the one Sir Alf Ramsey encountered in 1966 when he omitted Jimmy Greaves, although Torres' status within the Spain squad was very similar when the tournament began. Yet Torres' replacement, Barcelona youngster Pedro, did well enough in Durban for Del Bosque to stick with him at the Liverpool man's expense.
It is going to be a tough call for the Spain coach, although the man most directly affected, five-goal front-man David Villa, is not concerned. "It would be a great honour to play with either of them," said the Barcelona-bound forward. "They are both spectacular players who would help me to do my work around the pitch. But the beauty of our squad is that we have so many people like that. It is a pleasure to play with them all, so I will just leave it for the coach to decide."
The dilemma over Torres and Pedro would appear to be Del Bosque's only selection poser, which means the best Cesc Fabregas can hope for is a spot on the bench alongside Pepe Reina. Although neither side has won a World Cup, history hangs heavier for Spain given the other by-products of glory. In becoming the first side to lose their opening game but still win the trophy, they would be adding a pleasant footnote to their achievement, which would give hope to beaten teams in the future.
Far more importantly, Spain would also become only the second side since West Germany in 1974 to win the World Cup straight after European Championship success, and only the third - France did it the other way round - to hold both titles at the same time. For a country so used to failure on the international scene, it would be a significant statement, which would put potential world player of the year Xavi and playmaking team-mate Iniesta right at the forefront of current world stars.
Maybe that explains the nerves skipper Iker Casillas accepts his side are currently suffering from. "This is a very important match, the most important of our careers, and we do feel nervous," he said. "We have felt a bit anxious all the way through the tournament, even the early matches. We are all aware how vital this game is. It is only natural to have a few butterflies."