Carles Puyol accepts tomorrow's FIFA World Cup™ group match with Honduras is like a "final" for the European champions after their shock defeat to Switzerland in their opening game. Puyol and Co were beaten 1-0 by the Swiss in their first Group H match and need a win against the Central Americans to get their campaign back on track, having been touted as one of the pre-tournament favourites.
Barcelona captain Puyol refused to accept his team had played particularly badly against Switzerland or that the team were tired after gruelling club campaigns. "The team is really enthusiastic and really keen after the incident the other day and we are looking forward to the next match," he said.
"We want to feel cool and calm, to not be anxious and to play the football we know we can play. It is an extremely important match - like a final. We know we have to come out winning. To do that we have to be very respectful of our opponent and we hope to have a good match."
England manager Fabio Capello has come in for criticism over his policy of keeping his starting line-up a secret from his players until two hours before a match, but Puyol revealed that was the same approach Spain had adopted and felt it worked well.
"We also know the starting line-up just before a match. What coaches look for is that everybody is really alert, if you know you are not playing you can disconnect," he said. "In terms of Spain we are all highly committed. Even if we all knew the starting line-up a day before a game, I'm sure we would all be rowing in the same direction."
Coach Vicente del Bosque reported no injuries other than an undisclosed problem for Barcelona midfielder Andres Iniesta which he expected would rule him out of the match. "It is nothing to do with any earlier injuries. In the last set-piece against Switzerland there was a tackle, a collision. There is a slight disturbance there and Andres is not quite 100% for this match," the former Real Madrid boss said.
This is the World Cup. We can't relax.
Del Bosque has come in for criticism following the defeat to Switzerland, but he has been boosted by words of support from Spanish federation president Angel Maria Villar and insists he loves it when games are being played for the highest stakes possible.
"Even when you are able to come out victorious it is not always usual to have everyone on your side, but I felt huge support and I have to thank everyone," he said. "There are some bitter-sweet opinions because defeat is difficult to take but I shouldn't be thinking about contrary opinions.
"We don't have to fight that criticism, criticism should always be freely expressed. But I don't feel ill-treated and my squad does not feel ill-treated either. This is the World Cup. We can't relax. We have the right amount of pressure. Our players are experienced, they are used to high-level competition and I prefer these matches that are very intense. There are very few easy matches as you have seen already."
Like Puyol, Del Bosque insisted there would be no radical change of approach from La Roja. He said: "Substantially I don't think we will change our game at all in terms of what we've been doing over the last two years. We have to be more accurate in terms of finishing, but in terms of moving the ball we will follow the same style."