BLOEMFONTEIN, June 17 – Spain coach Vicente del Bosque says his team's phenomenal unbeaten run is partly due to the experience some of his top players have gained playing in England.
The squad he has at the Confederations Cup boasts six players who ply their trade in the English Premier League, five of them at Liverpool.
They include Fernando Torres, Xabi Alonso, Albert Reira, Pepe Reina and Alvaro Arbeloa.
He also has Arsenal captain Cesc Fabregas on hand.
"Indeed, the fact that they have gone abroad is one factor of the recent success of Spain. They contribute a lot from what they have learned there," he said ahead of their match with Iraq here on Wednesday.
"It has a lot to do with the contrast in styles in different countries. When you play elsewhere you learn new things, tactical things.
"They have also blossomed as people and are more mature now than they were before and this is another grain in the construction of the Spanish squad that has been so victorious."
Spain go into Wednesday’s match looking to equal the record for the longest winning run by a national team.
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 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.
Del Bosque, who replaced Luis Aragones after Spain’s Euro 2008 triumph and has won all 11 matches since he took over, added that the grassroots football program in Spain had also helped nurture today’s stars.
"There has always been a dynasty of Spanish clubs but for many years the national team did not match them," he said.
"But the grassroots programs in Spain have helped and a great generation of players has emerged. That is endemic of Spanish sport in general, football is just part of this."
Asked how much breaking records motivated Spain, Del Bosque said it played its part.
"It is indeed an extra motivation to be put on the same level of the Brazil team," he said.
"But our goal right now is to reach the semi-final here."
If they beat Iraq, Spain will make the last four with a potential semi-final against Brazil or Italy awaiting them.