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Spanish soccer legends value Spain’s World Cup opening game

MADRID Spain (Xinhua) -- Two legends of Spanish football, Jose Maria Gutierrez, known as ‘Guti’, and Fernando Morientes, said in an exclusive interview with Xinhua that the first game of Spanish national team in the 2018 Russia World Cup will show the team’s trajectory in the tournament.

Spain will play on Friday against Portugal in Sochi in their opening Group B match.

"Right now, the biggest risk is probably losing the first game, starting with a draw is not bad either, but the defeat in the debut makes you play nervous, I think Spain will depend a bit on this.

"If they defeat Portugal, they will gain confidence in themselves," Guti said.

The Spanish national team is at an extremely difficult time due to the storm that broke out on Wednesday with the dismissal of coach Julen Lopetegui, after Real Madrid announced his signing for the team.

Lopetegui was replaced by the sports director of the Royal Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) and also legend of Spanish football, Fernando Hierro.

Spain will face the current European champion, Portugal, in the first match, and his star, the world’s best player in the last two years, Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid).

"I think it’s going to be a complicated game against a good enough opponent like Portugal, they have Cristiano Ronaldo, who is a great player at any time, but I trust that Spain, which is one of the favorites, will win that match," Guti stated.

His former teammate in the Spanish team and Real Madrid, Morientes, agreed with Guti about the importance of winning the first match.

"When you start winning, it always gives you that sort of peace, although in principle, it’s true that the second game should be calmer than the first, you can not be overconfident.

"We already had experiences in the past against Portugal that showed that it is a team that always makes things very difficult," Morientes said.

However, both agreed that Spain started, at least before the turmoil with Lopetegui, as one of the favorites to win the title.

"I think it’s going to be a World Cup where there may be surprises, but I think there are four teams that are one step higher: Spain, France, Germany and Brazil, and then anything can happen," Guti said.

The talented player, who now trains the Real Madrid youth team, insists that the level of Spanish football is among the highest in the world, but he avoided any kind of favoritism before the tournament.

"When we were not favorites, like in South Africa 2010, Spain won the World Cup, but we must be aware that in Spanish football we have a great level and that our goal must be to win the World Cup.

"We have good players, but we also need a bit of luck", Guti said.

For Morientes, the key lies in being very focused.

"We have to take care of the details: the talks, the training, the videos to analyze the rivals ...

"In a World Cup there is no time for mistakes, it is a very selective championship and... small details can classify you or send you home," he said.

Guti pointed out that the national team has virtues that should take them far, such as the experience of many of his players in playing these types of matches.

"I believe that Spain not only has a good starting line-up, but that people on the bench can contribute a lot and that, can give the coach a lot of options in a complicated tournament", he said, explaining that players like Marco Asensio, Lucas Vazquez (both of Real Madrid) or Rodrigo (Valencia) can make great contributions in the World Cup.

Morientes nodded and insisted that the players should be aware that the coach could ask them to play.

"If you are the chosen one among the starting eleven, you have to be prepared to perform and go for the goals, and if you are not, you have to be prepared just in case it’s your turn in the second half or another match," he said.

Hours ahead for Spain to make its debut against Portugal, doubts in the lineup seem to be focused on who will be the striker to play with Ramos (Real Madrid), Pique, Busquets (FC Barcelona), Isco (Real Madrid) and Iniesta (FC Barcelona).

"It’s complicated, but if we look at performance and the last games, my choice would be Iago Aspas (Celta de Vigo), although Rodrigo has made a great year at Valencia’s team and Diego Costa (Atletico de Madrid ) is also a great player."

Morientes, who has already played with the Spanish national team at the France World Cup in 1998 and the South Korea and Japan World Cup in 2002, explained how the atmosphere is within the Spanish national team.

"I have spoken with Pepe Reina and he has told me that the relationship between everything is very good: at the beginning of a World Cup, the atmosphere is always extraordinary because although the players are tired of the whole year, they change the chip and start a new challenge," he said.

Spain’s dream of winning again the World Cup that won in South Africa will begin tomorrow.


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