Favorite Spain looks to build on successes

[CONFEDERATIONS CUP] The Confederations Cup, which begins Sunday in South Africa, is a sneak preview of how the 2010 World Cup shapes up.

Spain, which opens play on Sunday against New Zealand, is the early favorite to win the World Cup, but it could be challenged at the Confederations Cup by 2006 World Cup champion Italy and the 2002 winner Brazil.

Spain will aim to build on its recent successes. It won Euro 2008 and takes a 31-game unbeaten streak into the Confederations Cup. Its squad includes a nucleus of four players from the great Barcelona team that won the 2009 UEFA Champions Cup.

Barca star Andrea Iniesta is sidelined with a thigh injury he aggravated in the Champions League final against Manchester United, but Iniesta's midfield teammates Xavi and Sergio Busquets, as well as defenders Carles Puyol and Gerard Pique will represent Barcelona on the Spanish team at the Confederations Cup.

Indeed, Coach Vicente del Bosque, in his first major tournament since taking charge of Spain in 2008, has an embarrassment of riches to choose from.

Other stars available include Real Madrid goalkeeper Iker Casillas, Arsenal midfielder Cesc Fabregas, Valencia striker David Villa and Fernando Torres, one of five players from Liverpool.

"We have to enhance this competition, which has been won by big teams," said Del Bosque. "All the teams taking part will be there with their best players so we will also go with our best team."

 

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