Spain's FIFA Confederations Cup South Africa 2009 got underway on Sunday with a resounding 5-0 defeat of New Zealand, in which Cesc Fabregas played a starring role. The midfielder delivered an outstanding performance, helping to open the floodgates with a perfect assist for Fernando Torres and later capping a perfect first half for both himself and La Roja by claiming goal number four.
It was a red-letter day for the Arsenal player, having never previously started for Spain in the first match of a major tournament. In an exclusive interview with FIFA.com, Fabregas talked about maintaining the rich vein of form that he and the team are enjoying, as well as the upcoming meeting with Iraq.
A dream start
The No10 was understandably delighted with Spain's start to the tournament, and while acknowledging that New Zealand were just the first hurdle, was full of praise for the way Vicente del Bosque's charges swept them aside. "We played really well. It's always important to start with a win and that's just what we did. But we realise that this is just the beginning and that there's a long way to go in the Confederations Cup," he said.
Spain's next opponents will be Iraq, who played out a scoreless draw against hosts South Africa in the tournament opener. A win would ensure the European champions' progression into the semi-finals, but Fabregas is not getting ahead of himself. "We know we're favourites but we've got to be wary going into these matches. We saw the game between South Africa and Iraq before travelling to the stadium and we're going to analyse the video. We'll be taking the remaining matches extremely seriously," he warned.
It was a great way to set the ball rolling, and I hope that from here we can improve with every game.
Although Fabregas believes that Spain are serious contenders for the title, he does not go so far as to install La Seleccion as outright favourites. "There's still a long way to go," he said. "It's true that our first game was easier than we thought, but it's a long tournament, and there are some excellent teams to come. We're very confident but we have to remain composed.
Winning a place in Spain's starting XI was another source of pride for the 22-year-old, although he talks down the achievement: "It's not as though I wasn't a regular before this tournament. I came on as a substitute in many games and played 30 minutes or more, so in total I played for longer than a lot of the players who started. I've always felt like a regular on the team, and I think I've played my part in our success."
Fabregas does admit, however, that there is something special about being on the pitch from the outset and lining up for the anthems. "Naturally ever player wants to start games, but there are fantastic players in this team, all of whom are good enough to be out on the pitch. That's why breaking into the starting eleven is no easy task."
All in all, it was a memorable evening, which Fabregas hopes to relive in the upcoming games. "I played well, as did the whole team. It was a great way to set the ball rolling, and I hope that from here we can improve with every game," he concluded.