Spain coach Vicente Del Bosque believes his side's shock opening defeat by Switzerland has been "highly motivating" as they seek to add the FIFA World Cup™ to their UEFA Euro 2008 triumph.
Del Bosque's side were among the pre-tournament favourites but were stunned when Switzerland snatched victory in their first group match in South Africa. Spain rallied to beat Honduras and Chile, securing a last-16 showdown with Iberian rivals Portugal, and while Del Bosque refused to retrospectively regard the Switzerland defeat as a positive, he admitted it has served a purpose.
Ahead of tonight's showdown with Portugal in Cape Town, he said: "That first stumble versus Switzerland has been highly motivating psychologically.
"The group knows our targets and we're feeling fine. I don't think a defeat is ever good. It was damaging to us and we were very anxious because we thought we were going to be facing many difficulties. I don't think we had to learn any lessons, though, because this group is very humble and modest. We were not floating along on cloud nine at all, we fully realise that every match is difficult in itself."
Meanwhile, David Villa has launched a staunch defence of his strike partner Fernando Torres. While Villa has scored three goals from as many matches, Torres has yet to find the net in South Africa having only recovered from a knee injury just before the tournament. Villa insists the squad are oblivious to negative reviews of Torres' performances so far.
"First of all I haven't really heard any criticism of Fernando and I certainly don't share a view of his performances being lacklustre," said the Barcelona-bound striker. Perhaps he hasn't scored a goal but he's done spectacular work. He really is very happy in the squad, he's made an enormous effort to help this team. Let's remember what state he was in with his knee a month ago.
"He is supporting the team with his play, so I'm very thankful to him and I think his performances have been very good. He is doing some excellent work, but forwards are always measured by the goals they score and I'm totally convinced that if he continues working as well as he is, he will score goals."
Portugal boss Carlos Queiroz expects a potential classic when his men clash with their Iberian rivals. "It is a regional rivalry between the teams and it is also a social, cultural and historical rivalry between two nations," he said. "Therefore the game between Portugal and Spain is always a mouthwatering game, I'm sure of that. Just like 'derbies' between, say, England and Germany."