Playing with Spain a 'privilege' says Alonso

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The Independent Football

Former Liverpool star Xabi Alonso regards himself as a lucky man to get the chance to play alongside a team full of stars with Spain.

Alonso will line-up with brilliant Barcelona duo Xavi and Andres Iniesta on Sunday when his country look to win the World Cup for the first time against Holland at Soccer City.

The 29-year-old knows he is the one so often overlooked during discussions about the trio.

But he is not bothered about that.

"It is a privilege to among this group of players," he said. "There is so much quality.

"I have always tried to give my best so I never worried that I would not find a way into the side.

"We have great competition and that is good for the team because it brings the best out of everyone.

"Whenever you are playing you have to be ready and whenever you are on the bench you have to believe you will come on."

There are not many lessons the Euro 2008 winners can learn from England's disastrous campaign, but Alonso has found one.

Given Spain are overwhelming favourites this weekend, it is worth remembering how England were being talked up ahead of their games with the United States and Algeria, and how they were named at prohibitive odds to finish top of their group.

As Alonso well knows, the Three Lions achieved none of these things.

"Expectations were very high for England," said Alonso.

"One bad game and you are out. That is how it works in the World Cup and that should be a warning to us on Sunday."

With likely Golden Boot winner David Villa failing to find the net in the 1-0 semi-final win over Germany and Fernando Torres still to get off the mark in the competition, Spain owe their place in the final to veteran defender Carles Puyol, who powered home a header 17 minutes from time in Durban.

Puyol has been performing as well as ever, yet the 32-year-old's international future remains open to question after indications earlier this year that the Barcelona centre-half would call it a day once he got home from South Africa.

"There will be time to think after Sunday," said Puyol, who will be winning his 90th cap.

"No decision has been made. I will talk about it with the coach (Vicente Del Bosque) and the sporting director (Fernando Hierro) after the final."