La Furia Roja will want to cement their status as one of the World Cup favourites when they meet the Taegeuk Jeonsa...
Kick Off: Thursday, June 3, 2010. 18:00 CET
Tivoli Neu, Innsbruck, Austria
Spain remain one of the outstanding favourites to claim the World Cup this summer, having shaken their reputation for big tournament flopping in magnificent style by claiming Euro 2008 two summers ago. Even two losing performances in their final two build-up matches won’t dampen the fervour surrounding la Furia Roja, yet they will want to travel to South Africa on a high.
Blips in the Confederations Cup last year against the USA, whom they lost 2-1 against, and South Africa, whom Spain needed extra-time to defeat, are long forgotten memories. Vicente del Bosque’s side have won each of their last nine games, meaning that la Roja have lost only once in their last 46 international encounters.
Saudi Arabia gave the Spaniards a scare last week, grabbing the lead in a see-saw encounter before ultimately losing out to a strike from Fernando Llorente two minutes into stoppage time at the end of the encounter. This will have served to remind Del Bosque and his side that they are not untouchable, though they certainly looked that way when they totally outplayed France to win 2-0 in Paris back in March.
Goals are flowing for la Furia Roja at a tremendous rate, and with some of the most exciting attacking players in the world game, it is little wonder they can play with such adventure and excitement. Still, there were defensive shortcomings evident against the Saudi Arabians, and these need to be cleared before the beginning of hostilities in South Africa.
Fourth in their home World Cup of 2002, South Korea are presently looking to put an extremely disappointing 2006 competition in Germany behind them this summer. Huh Jung-Moo’s outfit have been placed in a tricky section with Argentina, Greece and Nigeria for the forthcoming event, but they will feel that qualification is not out of the realms of possibility.
Recent results suggest there are still inconsistencies in a side that are generally well drilled and ferociously industrious. Though fellow finalists Japan were defeated 2-0 little over a week ago, the Koreans came back to earth with something of a bump when they met Belarus at the weekend, crashing to a somewhat disappointing 1-0 reverse in Kufstein, Austria.
Having already played ten times in 2010, there can be few, if any, teams approaching the World Cup finals on the back of so many preparatory matches. Seven wins and three defeats over that period makes encouraging reading for fans of the team, but the East Asians will have to lift their level up a little this summer.
Spain represent a big step up in level for the Taegeuk Jeonsa, and they will want to produce a competitive performance against la Furia Roja to at least take some confidence into their daunting competitive encounter with Argentina, which is the second of their fixtures in the Rainbow Nation.
WON 3-2 (n) Saudi Arabia (Friendly, May 29)
WON 2-0 (a) France (Friendly, March 3)
WON 5-1 (a) Austria (Friendly, November 18)
WON 2-1 (h) Argentina (Friendly, November 14)
WON 5-2 (a) Bosnia (World Cup qualifying, October 18)
LOST 1-0 (n) Belarus (Friendly, May 30)
WON 2-0 (a) Japan (Friendly, May 24)
WON 2-0 (h) Ecuador (Friendly, May 16)
WON 2-0 (n) Ivory Coast (Friendly, March 3)
WON 3-1 (a) Japan (East Asia Football Championships, February 14)
Caution is being taken with regards to Liverpool striker Fernando Torres, who didn’t take part in the earlier half of Spain’s double session on Tuesday. This seems to simply have been a preventative measure, and he should be fit to play if required.
Vicente del Bosque is likely to take the chance to experiment a little in this encounter, which may mean some squad selections from left-field.
Probable Starting XI: Casillas; Sergio Ramos, Puyol, Pique, Capdevila; Martinez, Fabregas, Alonso; Navas, Villa, Pedro
Huh Jung-Moo will likely deploy his troops in a 4-4-2 formation, though he has been known to switch to a 4-2-3-1 at times.
The coach has a handful of issues to resolve, including his choice of goalkeeper. Lee Woon-jae played against Belarus but Jung Sung-ryeong played in the two games before that - against Japan and Ecuador. Whichever shot-stopper starts this game will likely start the World Cup.
Centre-back Kwak Tae-hwi was injured against Belarus and will miss the summer’s competition. He is likely to be replaced by Cho Yong-hyong.
Finally, there is a question mark over who will join Park Chu-young in attack.
Probable Starting XI: Jung Sung-ryeong; Lee Young-pyo, Lee Jung-soo, Cho yong-hyong, Cha Du-ri; Park Ji-sung, Ki Sung-yong, Kim Jung-woo, Lee Chung-yong; Park Chu-young, Yeom Ki-hun
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Javi Martinez may well be handed his first international start on Thursday after Barcelona’s Sergio Busquets struggled to impose himself meaningfully on the Saudi Arabia encounter. The Athletic Bilbao man will be aiming to barge his way into more regular contention after a terrific campaign with los Leones, and this could be his only chance to truly make a mark for himself.
Linked with a move to Premier League outfit Fulham, Park Chu-young is widely regarded as one of Asia’s best strikers. The Monaco ace enjoyed a good season in Ligue 1, though the end of his campaign was disrupted by injury problems, and he will want to use this encounter as an opportunity to give himself some much-needed match sharpness once more.
It’s very difficult to back against Spain in any international game at present, so they must be favoured going into this encounter. Even in non-descript friendlies, the European champions tend to find a way to win, so expect this warm-up encounter to end in favour of the Iberians.
Spain 2-0 South Korea