MADRID, June 11 – European champions Spain left for the World Cup on Thursday determined to play down their tag as favourites to win the title for the first time after a history of coming up short.
Vicente Del Bosque’s side, one of the contenders to win the tournament which gets underway Friday, was upbeat following their 6-0 win over Poland on Tuesday in their final warm-up match.
But his players are keen to cool hyper-confident expectations.
"We must be prudent, I see us as more as candidates to win the title than favourites," said Barcelona midfielder Xavi Hernandez.
The Spanish were due to have one final training session on home soil before heading for South Africa where they will be the last team to arrive for the tournament.
Spain could be without one of their midfield mainstays Andres Iniesta for next Wednesday’s group opener against Switzerland as the Barcelona player suffered a bruised leg during the victory against Poland.
On the plus side for the Spanish, star striker Fernando Torres scored after two months out following knee surgery in April.
It was the Liverpool player’s 24th international goal.
The squad is scheduled to arrive in Johannesburg on Friday morning. They will be based during the month-long tournament in Potchefstroom about 120 kilometres (75 miles) southwest of the South African city.
Spain are in Group H and will face Honduras on June 21 in Johannesburg and Chila four days later in Pretoria.
Crown Prince Felipe and his wife Letizia will attend Spain’s first match against Switzerland in Durban, the royal palace said Thursday.
Spain hold the distinction of being the only side to ever be ranked number one in the FIFA standings without winning a World Cup. Their best placing remains fourth place in 1950.
The country would only appear in two more World Cups until 1978, but have qualified for every tournament since then.