Del Bosque tries to manage expectations

Spain v Switzerland; Today, 3pm, BBC1

Andres Iniesta, the only man to start every game of Spain's European Championship triumph, is ready to take his place at the heart of the midfield once again amid growing expectation back home that Vicente del Bosque's side will follow France in holding the world crown and the continental title at the same time.

The Barcelona playmaker injured his right leg during Spain's final warm-up game against Poland – a 6-0 victory that did nothing to dampen down what coach Del Bosque has termed the "extraordinary optimism" – but took a full part in an hour long training session at the Moses Mabhida Stadium in Durban yesterday.

Del Bosque is expected to allow Fernando Torres further time to recover from the knee surgery that cut short his season with Liverpool. Instead he will play David Villa on his own ahead of a midfield quintet including three of the £35m striker's Barcelona team-mates, Xavi, Sergio Busquets and Iniesta, if Del Bosque decides to start him. "There's high expectations because of our trajectory over the past years, people see we can play well and that's positive," said Villa. "I wouldn't say it's pressure, it's more like flattery."

Iker Casillas, the captain who will win his 103rd cap in goal today, has no doubt as to what his team can achieve. "We come with a lot of hope and desire to be world champions. If we play our game then we can win it," he said yesterday. "All these players make this such a good team – it's more than a team, its a family like we've said a long time now. We're harvesting the fruit of what we sowed years ago."

Del Bosque, as any coach does, has struck a watchful note ahead of his side's opening game in Group H after his side swept into the finals with a perfect qualifying record and having suffered just a solitary defeat in three years. That came in South Africa, against the United States in last year's Confederations Cup, and it provides the necessary cautionary tale – as well, of course, as Spain's underwhelming World Cup record; a best placed fourth in 1950.

"There's extraordinary optimism. But many make it sound like Spain has a direct route to the final and it's not like that," said Del Bosque, who has overseen 25 wins in the 26 games of his tenure since replacing Luis Aragones following the European Championship triumph in Vienna two years ago.

"We're not on this highway of thought that everyone seems to be on. If you want to achieve something you have to achieve it with work and by being a great athlete. It's difficult to get away from the view of the outside. There is an optimism as if we were going to play the World Cup final now. But fortunately, we have players that are aware of the reality and not of utopia. Players that know what football is like."

The sense that Spain are looking beyond their opening game is heightened by their record against the Swiss, who they have never lost to in 18 meetings. If Iniesta is kept out of the action in Durban – and Del Bosque says he will make the decision on doctor's orders: "We have to think about the future, not just about tomorrow" – then Cesc Fabregas is his likely replacement and the Arsenal midfielder has taken the memento mori role, warning his team of their mortality.

"We're a regular team, like all, and we need to go little by little," he said. "When we won the Euro nobody was talking about us. You have to be humble, work little by little, and only concentrate on the first game and we'll see what happens. Group classification is the only importance."



There are two sides in this game

Switzerland have been cast as makeweights and with Alex Frei, their captain and record goalscorer, and the busy Valon Behrami both out injured, they have been given next to no chance of causing a mighty upset. Here, after all, is a side that managed to suffer a qualifying defeat in Luxembourg. They do at least have the benefit of one of Europe's most experienced coaches in Ottmar Hitzfeld, who has twice won the European Cup, including masterminding Borussia Dortmund's improbable success against Juventus in 1997. "In my opinion, they have many qualities," claimed Del Bosque. The rest of the world remains to be convinced.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

The long walk west: they fled war in Syria, only to get held up in Hungary – now hundreds of refugees have set off on foot for Austria

They fled war in Syria...

...only to get stuck and sidetracked in Hungary
From The Prisoner to Mad Men, elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series

Title sequences: From The Prisoner to Mad Men

Elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series. But why does the art form have such a chequered history?
Giorgio Armani Beauty's fabric-inspired foundations: Get back to basics this autumn

Giorgio Armani Beauty's foundations

Sumptuous fabrics meet luscious cosmetics for this elegant look
From stowaways to Operation Stack: Life in a transcontinental lorry cab

Life from the inside of a trucker's cab

From stowaways to Operation Stack, it's a challenging time to be a trucker heading to and from the Continent
Kelis interview: The songwriter and sauce-maker on cooking for Pharrell and crying over potatoes

Kelis interview

The singer and sauce-maker on cooking for Pharrell
Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

The addictive nature of Diplomacy

Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea