Spain looks to Iniesta for history-changing moment

There was another flawlessly blue sky on South Africa's east coast, where Spain arrived yesterday wondering whether they have finally made it back to the sunny uplands they occupied when they edged Germany to the European crown two years ago. Andres Iniesta is the man who has given them the belief that they have.

Iniesta's imprint on this tournament has not quite been what it was in 2008, when he was the only Spaniard to play in every game. He missed their second group game, against Honduras, this time around through injury – the story of a frustrating domestic season with Barcelona in which a thigh problem severely restricted him and he scored only one La Liga goal. But the midfielder and David Villa have been the ones with the flashes of creativity. Iniesta scored Spain's winner in the 2-1 victory over Chile and set up Villa's goal in the war of attrition against Paraguay in the quarter-final on Saturday. The Spain coach, Vicente del Bosque, believes that tonight Germany will allow his side far more space in the 70,000-capacity Moses Mabhida Stadium than they got against Paraguay and Switzerland, who beat them 1-0 in their opening game. As they seek a place in their first World Cup final, Iniesta could be the man to prosper.

The only team selection debate yesterday revolved around whether Cesc Fabregas might start rather than Fernando Torres – the Emile Heskey of Spain's World Cup – who has held the ball but not found the net. Fabregas injured a leg in training on Monday and this may be the factor which persuades Del Bosque to keep faith with Torres.

Iniesta will certainly line up, though, fired by the thought of raising Spain among the pantheon of World Cup winners, where Germany have been three times before. Between them, this group of Spanish players have 157 titles, with Iniesta and Xavi in possession of 15, more than any other players in the camp. Yet the World Cup is a different story: Spain have never until now gone beyond a quarter-finals. "We have, of course, always had this wish to be champions," Iniesta reflected last night. "We have not always made it but we have had players of a great level before. This is probably due to the history of Spanish football. But we are lucky to be in this moment."

For Del Bosque a place in the final is something he has periodically seen Germany take up, with no little envy. "When I was a kid I knew that they made it in to the final," he said. The question both he and Joachim Löw have been fielding ad nauseam in the past few days is which of the two sides which contested the Euro 2008 final in Vienna has advanced most. If team selection goes to plan tonight, six of the Germans and six of the Spaniards who lined up the Ernst Happel Stadium will start in the World Cup semi-final. The received wisdom is that the Germans have progressed most in the intervening two years, a view Del Bosque did not entirely repudiate when he said that "generally speaking, [our game] is the same."

The countervailing view – Del Bosque's – is that Spain have not flattered as much because they have had a far more difficult passage against sides who have pressed harder than Argentina and England did the Germans. The coach, who described this as his most important game in a 15-year managerial career, sees a difference between the fast German football which has taken the tournament by storm and his own side's intricate game. "They play more vertical football. Perhaps we are more elaborate," he said.

Löw, who fielded a multitude of questions about whether his side would play a more defensive game to deny Spain space, said nothing would change.

Iniesta will certainly need the kind of wondrous football which made the Barcelona coach, Pep Guardiola, report, when he first saw him in action 12 years ago, that he had seen a 14-year-old who "reads the game better than me". After two injury-riddled seasons it would serve his future well to set Durban alight. The talk, amid Barcelona's attempts to bring Fabregas in, has been of Iniesta missing many of Barcelona's big games from next season.

Iniesta is an improbable World Cup hero. He has a pigmentation problem which leaves him so pale that one of the running jokes on Catalan TV is that he is a glow-worm – a children's toy whose face glows in the dark. El Pais has simply defined him as "Nureyev". He can see his moment now, though. "It doesn't occur to me to think only of the semi-final," he said. "We think onwards and want to lift the cup. We are linked to each other and have a collective interest, greater than the individual good. To take the trophy would be the apotheosis. I believe, hopefully, we can fulfil a dream."

Gunner stay? Barcelona's Fabregas bid in trouble

0 shots on target managed by Spain before Cesc Fabregas came on against Paraguay in the quarter-final.

4 shots on target after he came on in the 56th minute.

11 shots managed by Spain after Fabregas's introduction – they had just 14 in the match.

Given Cesc Fabregas's impact for Spain in their quarter-final, it is no surprise Barcelona are still keen to sign him from Arsenal, but their attempts may have foundered after the club revealed yesterday that they had been forced to take out an emergency loan of €150m (£125m). The club's new president, Sandro Rosell, said short-term cash flow problems were to blame, with defender Dmytro Chygrynskiy also being sold.

Rosell, who took charge on 1 July, insisted it did not mean the club was in serious financial problems. "We have taken over a club in debt and with liquidity problems, but we are resolving them. Club members shouldn't worry. The club isn't bankrupt," he said. "This week we will have all the tools in place for a more austere policy, to be able to save on the unnecessary items and to pay the important commitments, such as the salaries of the players, coaching staff and employees."

Barcelona say they have not given up on Fabregas but they will not be held to ransom. "We will never pay €50m or €60m for Cesc," Rosell said. "The whole world knows he wants to come and that we want to sign him.

"The signing of Cesc has become difficult, because the expectation levels have been driven up by the seller, and this isn't good news for Barcelona. You can imagine what Arsenal want to get out of it."

Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor and Clara have their first real heart to heart since he regenerated in 'Deep Breath'
TV
Arts and Entertainment
James Hewitt has firmly denied being Harry’s father
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie Oliver
filmTV chef Jamie Oliver turned down role in The Hobbit
News
The official police photograph of Dustin Diamond taken after he was arrested in Wisconsin
peopleDownfall of the TV star charged with bar stabbing
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Sport
Ashley Barnes of Burnley scores their second goal
footballMan City vs Burnley match report
News
news
News
Sir James Dyson: 'Students must be inspired to take up the challenge of engineering'
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Man of action: Christian Bale stars in Exodus: Gods and Kings
film
Life and Style
Apple showed no sign of losing its talent for product launches with the new, slightly larger iPhone 6 making headlines
techSecurity breaches and overhyped start-ups dominated a year in which very little changed (save the size of your phone)
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

Career Services

Day In a Page

A timely reminder of the bloody anniversary we all forgot

A timely reminder of the bloody anniversary we all forgot

Who remembers that this week we enter the 150th anniversary year of the end of the American Civil War, asks Robert Fisk
Homeless Veterans appeal: Former soldiers pay their respects to a friend who also served

Homeless Veterans appeal

Former soldiers pay their respects to a friend who also served
Downfall of Dustin 'Screech' Diamond, the 'Saved By The Bell' star charged with bar stabbing

Scarred by the bell

The downfall of the TV star charged with bar stabbing
Why 2014 was a year of technological let-downs

Why 2014 was a year of technological let-downs

Security breaches and overhyped start-ups dominated a year in which very little changed (save the size of your phone)
Cuba's golf revolution: But will the revolutionary nation take 'bourgeois' game to its heart?

Will revolutionary Cuba take 'bourgeois' golf to its heart?

Fidel Castro ridiculed the game – but now investment in leisure resort projects is welcome
The Locked Room Mysteries: As a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor Otto Penzler explains the rules of engagement

The Locked Room Mysteries

As a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor explains the rules of engagement
Amy Adams on playing painter Margaret Keane in Tim Burton's Big Eyes

How I made myself Keane

Amy Adams hadn’t wanted to take the role of artist Margaret Keane, because she’d had enough of playing victims. But then she had a daughter, and saw the painter in a new light
Ed Richards: Parting view of Ofcom chief. . . we hate jokes on the disabled

Parting view of Ofcom chief... we hate jokes on the disabled

Bad language once got TV viewers irate, inciting calls to broadcasting switchboards. But now there is a worse offender, says retiring head of the media watchdog, Ed Richards
A look back at fashion in 2014: Wear in review

Wear in review

A look back at fashion in 2014
Ian Herbert: My 10 hopes for sport in 2015. Might just one of them happen?

Ian Herbert: My 10 hopes for sport in 2015

Might just one of them happen?
War with Isis: The West needs more than a White Knight

The West needs more than a White Knight

Despite billions spent on weapons, the US has not been able to counter Isis's gruesome tactics, says Patrick Cockburn
Return to Helmand: Private Davey Graham recalls the day he was shot by the Taliban

'The day I was shot by the Taliban'

Private Davey Graham was shot five times during an ambush in 2007 - it was the first, controversial photograph to show the dangers our soldiers faced in Helmand province
Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Many flyers are failing to claim compensation to which they are entitled, a new survey has found
The stories that defined 2014: From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions

The stories that defined 2014

From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations

Disaster looming? Now you know where to head...

Which British city has become the first to be awarded special 'resilience' status by the UN?