Sergio Ramos has tried to ease the pressure on his Spain team-mates by dismissing the idea they should be considered favourites to lift the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™. The European champions boast a formidable record over the last three years and are widely favoured to emerge global champions.

But Ramos believes there are several teams who can challenge over the course of the next few weeks. "Well, I think in these kind of events you always have a surprise," the Real Madrid defender said.

"Obviously the favourites are Italy, Brazil, Portugal, Holland... in this year's tournament we will see so many good players which make the World Cup so interesting and exciting. So, we pass the status of being favourites to the other teams.

If we do the things well as we did in the European Cup, step by step and respecting every team, we will play an important role.

Sergio Ramos on Spain's chances of winning South Africa 2010

"We do not like to be seen as favourites, but of course we have a strong team and if we do the things well as we did in the European Cup, step by step and respecting every team, we will play an important role. I would be happy reaching the 11th of July, day of the final."

Ramos's Real team-mate Alvaro Arbeloa is likewise looking at others to carry the weight of expectation. "For me the favourites are Brazil," he said. "They have a lot of experience.

"They are the team which has the most titles, they are a team which are always dangerous and to be considered. Furthermore, everyone talks about us, Spain, but this in the end does not help. I think Spain and Brazil are the favourites.

"Italy are always very strong, although it does not look like this before the tournament. England with (Fabio) Capello are very good. Then teams like France, Germany and Portugal who have great individual players and, yes, Argentina, why not?