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UEFA Champions League

Del Bosque puts football first

Spain coach Vicente Del Bosque says his side are happy to take part in the extra-curricular activities around Wednesday's controversial friendly in Panama, but the game remains an important part of their preparation for more important upcoming competitive challenges.

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On Tuesday the Spanish squad, along with Spanish FA (RFEF) president Angel Maria Villar and other dignitaries, were received by Costa Rican president Ricardo Martinelli at his Las Garzas palace, before being taken for a guided tour of the Panama canal.

The RFEF are reportedly receiving €2.5 million for the game, which is being promoted as a show of "friendship" between the two countries. The winners will receive the 'Copa V Centenario' to mark the 500th anniversary of Spanish conquistador Vasco Nunez de Balboa "discovering" the Pacific Ocean.

But Del Bosque said that, for him and his players, the actual game at Panama City's Estadio Rommel Fernandez was the most important reason for the trip.

"For me this is more than a game because it brings the chance to strengthen the relationship between two brother countries," Del Bosque said. "(But) for us this is a competitive game, not an exhibition, we are here to represent our country against an opponent who will very motivated to play against us, and who will want to show the potential of football in their country."

The World Cup and Euro-2012-winning-coach is expected to give debuts to Barcelona right-back Martin Montoya and Athletic Bilbao winger Markel Susaeta, while Benat Etxeberria looks likely to be giving a playmaking role in central midfield as Xabi Alonso and Xavi Hernandez are absent for the game, which will be played in mid-afternoon heat to suit TV viewers back in Spain.

"I cannot give a line-up yet because we have not trained and I have not seen how the players are," Del Bosque said on Tuesday afternoon. "Our primary objective is qualification for World Cup 2014. We also have the Confederations Cup, the warm-up for the World Cup. We cannot just look back at what we have done before."

Spain's record in friendlies over the last two seasons has been patchy, with defeats to Argentina, Portugal and England, and an unimpressive 2-2 draw in Costa Rica and 2-1 win in Puerto Rico. 'Los Canaleros', who have made it through to the 'final six' CONCACAF qualifying round as they aim to qualify for a first ever World Cup, would be another stiff test, Del Bosque claimed.

"Our opponents are getting stronger each time," he said. "Costa Rica and Puerto Rico made us suffer. Panama are missing some players, but they are an organised side, who are being a difficult opponent for everyone. They play direct football, with good wingers, and stick together well."


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