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Spain profile – Iniesta the clock that keeps La Roja ticking

| 02.07.2010

With key players looking ring-rusty Spain (3/1 to win the World Cup) are yet to click properly at this tournament. But, having improved against Portugal, their passing should run like clockwork against a goal-shy Paraguay side.

It’s easily forgotten just how relatively young Iker Casillas is. The Spain captain is just 29 but has been the side’s goalkeeper for the last decade, amassing a whopping 108 caps. He has always been a bedrock for the team and it’s the same at this World Cup. Possibly at fault for Switzerland’s goal, he had no chance with Chile’s deflected effort. A clean sheet for Spain looks a good bet at 4/6.

The back-four has been unchanged for all four games and blends the rugged wiliness of Carlos Puyol with the attacking potency of Sergio Ramos. The Real Madrid right-back has been at his swashbuckling best, going so close against Portugal.

Gerard Pique is as skilful as defenders come but he and Puyol conspired to let in that sloppy opening-game goal, while Capdevila could also be targeted. At 1/7 under 1.5 goals for Paraguay seems assured, though.

Vicente Del Bosque has reverted to playing two holding midfielders in this tournament, with reports suggesting it’s to compensate for knocks being carried by Xabi Alonso and Pique. Sergio Busquets has started all matches so far and gives Spain a strong core, but one without as much creativity as it would have with David Silva in the side.

Xavi has been consistently good without yet performing brilliantly but his twin-soul Andres Iniesta is looking sharp after returning from injury against Chile. He scored a lovely goal in that game and helped set up the winner against Portugal (10/1 to score first).

Cesc Fabregas and Jesus Navas have also featured and offer options in tight situations. It’s 14/1 for the first goal to be scored in the last 10 minutes.

Two words: David Villa. With Fernando Torres clearly struggling for form and fitness after knee surgery, it has fallen to the new Barcelona striker to get the goals (11/4 to score first). He’s grabbed four of Spain’s five and has 42 in 62 games for his country. He is the 7/4 favourite to win the Golden Shoe.

He threatened repeatedly against Portugal despite being on left wing and could lead the line on his own if Torres (4/1) doesn’t perk up in training.

Fernando Llorente (6/1 to score last) made his World Cup debut against Portugal and almost scored instantly – seems likely to feature against Paraguay.

Can Spain hit the heights of their qualification campaign? They scored over two goals on five occasions then but have yet to do that in South Africa. 3-0 in 90 minutes is 8/1. See the full Paraguay v Spain match betting market.



John Klee