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Jun 12, 2013

Soldado gives Spain striker dilemma

Vicente Del Bosque says Spain's warm-up friendly victories over Haiti and Ireland have tuned his side up nicely ahead of the Confederations Cup, but he still has plenty of selection decisions to make.

La Roja followed Saturday's lethargic 2-1 win over Haiti in Florida with a more impressive 2-0 victory against the Irish 2-0 in New York on Tuesday, and they now head south to Brazil to take part in the only competition which has eluded this current, almost all-conquering, generation of players.

Their veteran coach said the week in the United States had been perfect preparation for the challenge ahead, however seven of the eight teams at the tournament would fancy their chances of taking the trophy.

"We are arriving with confidence, in a good moment and motivated, but there are seven teams who have the same chance of winning the trophy," Del Bosque said. "We achieved our objectives, there have been no injuries, there is a good atmosphere around the team and we have advanced physically."

At Yankee Stadium on Tuesday Spain dominated a below full-strength Irish side, but the deadlock was not broken until substitute Roberto Soldado volleyed in smartly with 20 minutes remaining.

Asked if the Valencia man was now ahead of rivals Fernando Torres and David Villa in the striking pecking order, Del Bosque said he was happy with his options.

"The 'Nine' works when the team works," he said. "I am not going to say who will start, but Soldado has had two games in which he has shown he can be incisive, as Torres and Villa have also been. There are no starters and substitutes, because they are all leading figures at their clubs. It is difficult to choose as they are all very good."

Long-serving Spain captain Iker Casillas also came off the bench to make a couple of fine late saves from James McClean and Stephen Kelly with the score at 1-0. Del Bosque would not reveal whether he considered that the Real Madrid man, short of competitive match-practice having been dropped by Jose Mourinho at club level, had done enough to ensure he started ahead of Victor Valdes and Jose Reina when Spain begin the tournament against Uruguay in Recife on June 16.

"[Casillas] played well, but any of the three keepers could play," Del Bosque said. "You will see on the 16th."

Juan Mata - who killed the game late on with a second goal after some superb inter-passing with Santi Cazorla - said Spain would be better when the competition started, and echoed his coach's thoughts on the tough competition for places within the squad.

"We were able to win it in the end, it was another difficult game against a team which sat right back," the Chelsea attacker said. "The important thing is there were no injuries and we have prepared well for the competition. We knew these were friendlies. We will play much quicker when the Confederations Cup starts. This was about preparing.

"There is a lot of competition, we have three great strikers, but in the end the important thing is the team. We know the level of Iker, Pepe and Victor. We have a great squad."

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