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Schweinsteiger: Spain are favourites
07/07/2010  by PA
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Bastian Schweinsteiger insists Spain are the favourites for the World Cup semi-final encounter in Durban, despite Germany being the most impressive team in South Africa so far.

The two European heavyweights have had contrasting runs to the last four.

Apart from a group stage blip against Serbia, Joachim Low's team have steamrollered almost every team that has crossed their path, including England and Argentina in the knockout stages.

The Spaniards, one of the pre-tournament favourites, have been far more subdued, battling their way through almost every round.

But Schweinsteiger insists the side that beat them in the Euro 2008 final two years ago are still "the better team on paper".

"Losing a final always causes frustration and disappointment but Spain were definitely the better team," the Bayern Munich midfielder said.

"On paper Spain are still the better team but I think we have shown in our last two games that we can beat teams that appear the better ones on paper.

"For me, Spain are the best team in the world. It will be tough just like it was against England and Argentina but I've a lot of faith in this team because we've seen what we can do if we all pull together."

The Germans, who came into the competition without being given much chance of winning, have silenced many of the doubters with their attacking brand of play, a change from previous years where they were known for their defensive prowess.

They are the leading scorers at the finals with 13 goals and new faces like Thomas Muller, Sami Khedira and Mesut Ozil have all been revelations.

Schweinsteiger continued: "Now we have fresh faces and different characters - an unencumbered state of mind.

"The younger players who have come in have gained experienced during this tournament.

"Spain haven't changed that much. Sergio Busquets has replaced Marcos Senna but otherwise they are pretty much the same team as two years ago."

Despite admitting full respect for the European champions, he acknowledged that they were not at their best in South Africa.

"Xavi, (Andres) Iniesta but also Xabi Alonso and (Gerard) Pique are great players but we still have a chance against them," he said.

"They are the decisive players for Spain because without them (David) Villa and (Fernando) Torres won't get the service needed to score goals.

"But Spain haven't really dazzled in the way that their fans might have hoped but they have still been winning. If we can play as a team, just as we have done so far, then we stand a very good chance."

Cesc Fabregas has raised hopes he will be fit for the game by training with his team-mates.

The Arsenal midfielder had a scan on his right leg yesterday after taking a knock in training but there was no serious damage.

He did have a support strip on the back of his leg in training in Durban tonight but took part in a full session with no apparent adverse effects.

Spain coach Vicente del Bosque is thought likely to give Fabregas his first start of the tournament in place of Fernando Torres, although David Silva and Fernando Llorente are other options.

The Spanish Football Federation said in a statement: "The tests have ruled out any type of bone injury so the player could be available to play against Germany. He has not been ruled out for the game tomorrow."

There has been speculation that the 23-year-old would start the game since Spain improved dramatically in the quarter-final against Paraguay when he replaced Fernando Torres.

Spain managed 15 shots against Paraguay with 11 of these, and the four on-target efforts, coming in the 34 minutes after Fabregas was on the pitch.

Spain coach Vicente del Bosque said fears over Fabregas had now been dispelled.

Del Bosque said: "He has trained well. We were quite worried because he took a hit in the same place as his injury but he is available to play."

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