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Watford's Ighalo rejects Chinese offer


Casillas: We're not guaranteed to progress

Spain captain Iker Casillas says it is "strange" that the World Cup holders must qualify for the next tournament but that the team must accept the rules and get on with the job.

• Torres enjoying fresh start

In the past, World Cup winners were automatically given a chance to retain their title, but the situation was changed for the 2006 competition when Brazil had to qualify. The Real Madrid goalkeeper, speaking to reporters in Georgia ahead of his side's opening Brazil 2014 qualifier on Tuesday night, said it would be unusual were the defending champions to fail to reach a competition.

"Obviously it is strange and unusual that the world champion does not have an automatic ticket for Brazil, but they decided it was better that the champion had to qualify," Casillas said. "It could happen that we do not reach the World Cup and it would be strange if the champions were not there to defend their title, but we are just thinking about what we are doing. It is for others to think if it is a good idea considering what we achieved in winning the World Cup."

La Roja are in Group I along with France, Belarus, Finland and Georgia, and were not involved in the opening round of qualifiers - instead beating Saudi Arabia 5-0 in a friendly on Friday night in Pontevedra.

Casillas said he knew Spain, as European as well as world champions, were favourites to progress, but agreed with coach Vicente del Bosque that they must take each rival in their group seriously.

"We are going in remembering the words of the 'mister'," he said. "We want to get our first three points, knowing that, in theory, we have games which should not bring us problems, apart from France. But we know that these are opponents who can take points off us."

Georgia began their campaign with a 1-0 win over Belarus in Tbilisi on Friday, and Casillas said the Spanish players had already watched that game and made notes.

"We saw the video this morning," he said. "We know their 'keeper, (Giorgi) Loria, who was phenomenal against Belarus. We know (Jano) Ananidze, who is a good player. As I knew I would be asked, I learned their names."


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