Spain got down to business at their Austrian base on Friday determined to snap a recent poor streak which has brought premature heartbreak at major tournaments.
Coach Luis Aragones put the squad through their paces in Neustift, but had to rest injured strikers David Villa and Sergio Garcia for the majority of the session, although Andres Iniesta and Fernando Torres trained normally as they recovered from food poisoning and ankle trouble respectively.
Villa, suffering from a right quadriceps injury after a training ground incident on Tuesday, and Garcia (bruised calf) had to content themselves with basic exercises, but both expect to be in the frame for Tuesday’s opening match against Russia in Group D.
If Villa is deemed not to be 100 percent fit then Aragones is set to call upon Mallorca striker Dani Guiza to partner Torres.
Spain have shown some defensive lapses of concentration in recent games which the media have picked up on, but Liverpool star Alvaro Arbeloa said he believed the criticism was overblown.
“The defense has been criticized unfairly, but I think people have to realize that the other teams hardly managed to eke out chances against us. The brickbats are unfair and the Spanish defenders are going to show what fine players they are,” Arbeloa said late on Friday.
The last eight has often proved a barrier for Spain, whose only international success came at Euro 1964.
Last time out four years ago, defeat to Portugal meant they failed to advance past the group phase but at both the Euro and World Cup they have often endured a last eight hoodoo.
Spain took some brickbats after only beating the US 1-0 in their final warm-up match, but Guiza said: “I don’t care what people are saying. We have to stay calm and not listen to these commentaries.”
After facing Russia, the Spaniards take on Sweden and then titleholders Greece.
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