History beckons for on-fire Spain

Spain can equal the record for the longest winning run by a national team on Tuesday, giving them an extra incentive to beat Iraq in the Confederations Cup

updated: June 16, 2009 07:37 IST
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Bloemfontein, South Africa:

Spain can equal the record for the longest winning run by a national team on Tuesday, giving them an extra incentive to beat Iraq in the Confederations Cup.

The record of 14 straight victories is jointly held by Brazil and France and the European champions have a great chance of not just matching it but going one better, with South Africa next up after Iraq.

Following the emphatic way they dispatched New Zealand 5-0 in their tournament opener on Sunday, few would bet against Vicente del Bosque's men achieving the feat, as well as matching Brazil's world record unbeaten run.

The Brazilians put together 35 matches without defeat between 1993 and 1996 and Spain are currently on 33, stretching back to November 2006 when they lost 1-0 in a friendly against Romania.

Veteran coach Del Bosque, who replaced Luis Aragones after Spain's Euro 2008 triumph, can already lay claim to his own small piece of history, having led the team to victory in all 11 matches since he took over, an unprecedented feat.

The former Real Madrid boss said coaching the current national side was a huge privilege.

"When you're involved with a national team at the highest level, naturally you want to win every competition," he said about his philosophy.

"I have enough experience to know that I have huge responsibility. But I also know that if you have the right players you can compete with anybody."

And the right players Del Bosque has, spearheaded by Liverpool striker Fernando Torres, whose quickfire hat-trick against New Zealand reinforced his international credentials.

In an ominous warning to Iraq, Torres said all the team were playing at the top of their game.

"I feel very much at ease in this team and one of the great advantages is that we have players who can hold the ball well," he said.

"I score but I benefit from the work done behind me. We are all playing at a top level."

Despite their phenomenal unbeaten run, Torres said it would not be on their minds against Iraq.

"We have another game and we must start from scratch and be ready," he said.

Against South Africa, Iraq opted for a five-man backline which they may repeat against Spain as the Asian champions work to grind out another draw, knowing they faces minnows New Zealand in their final group game.

With a full-strength side captained by striker Younis Mahmoud and with the dangerous Nashat Akram in midfield, Iraq should pose a sterner test for Torres and his team-mates.

"We got a point against South Africa and now for Spain. We can go through (to the knockout rounds)," said wily Iraq coach Bora Milutinovic, who has led five different teams at the World Cup finals.

"Our goal is to try to win every game," added the Serb.

Iraq were accused of adopting negative tactics against South Africa in their 0-0 draw on Sunday, but Milotinovic brushed aside the criticism as he looked ahead to surprising the world's number one-ranked team.

"Spain represent world-class football, we are aware of that. But we think we can achieve an impressive result and qualify for the next round," he said of his side, whose exploits are followed closely in the war-ravaged nation.