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Jun 25, 2013

Del Bosque plays down Xavi influence

Spain coach Vicente Del Bosque has refuted stories that he and key midfielder Xavi Hernandez had fallen out over team selection and tactics during the Confederations Cup.

Rumours of a disagreement between Del Bosque and Xavi followed assistant coach Toni Grande's revelation last weekend that the Barcelona midfielder had told coaches "that he preferred to play with some players rather than others".

The assumption was that the playmaker wanted to take advantage of Xabi Alonso's absence through injury to play in a deeper position, where he would have even more influence on the game. Spain's tactics at the tournament have been noticeably different than during recent competitions, with just one 'holding' midfielder being deployed in their three group games.

The World Cup 2010 and Euro 2012 winning manager told AS that he would obviously consult with a player of Xavi's football knowledge before making decisions, but in the end the coaching staff had the final say on all matters.

"There was nothing concrete, we talked about football things," Del Bosque said. "About pressing, this, the other, I do not need to go into private details. How would I not talk about football with Xavi, he who is hanging on how a Tarragona or Barakaldo game has gone? How would I not speak with him? But decisions are taken by the person who has to take them.

"Have you noticed any influence? With the current system of play? Well, Xabi Alonso was out and evidently we had to change. But has [Alvaro] Arbeloa been dropped due to someone's recommendation? Look, we are not looking for a problem where none exists. We have our weaknesses, but we work in the right way, we put ourselves in nobody's hands. That would be too much."

Del Bosque said pundits and fans tended to place too much emphasis on tactics and shapes such as 4-3-3 or 4-1-4-1, suggesting he puts the best players on the pitch and they themselves then knew what to do.

"Neither have we changed too much, the names change and you need to adapt with them," he said. "The 'system' is a photograph, and then the players develop it. And we have adapted to the absence of Alonso."

The former Madrid boss looks set to make at least two changes to his side for Thursday's semi-final meeting with Italy as Cesc Fabregas and Roberto Soldado both missed training on Monday with muscle injuries.

Fabregas played a 'false-nine' role against Italy as they won last summer's Euro 2012 final 4-0, a selection which Del Bosque said had been mainly around dealing with Italy's deep-lying playmaker Andrea Pirlo, who is an injury doubt for Thursday's rematch.

"On that occasion we set up for the game thinking about Pirlo, who was the one who generated football for them," he said. "He placed himself very far back between the centre-halves and we wanted Cesc to be looking for him. Now it could be, maybe, that Pirlo will not be able to play."

Should Spain start with a more traditional number nine on Thursday than Chelsea's Fernando Torres is favoured to come in after scoring after coming on from the bench in Sunday's 3-0 final group game win over Nigeria. David Silva, who replaced Fabregas in that game, could start in midfield, although Juan Mata, Santi Cazorla and Javi Martinez are other options for Del Bosque to consider.

After all three goalkeepers in the squad got a game in the group stages, Iker Casillas was now likely to retake his place as automatic first choice, Del Bosque suggested.

"There are three superb keepers, but the most first choice is Casillas," he said. "You are looking for the starter - Casillas is the 'most' starter. They are three great keepers, and any of them could play."

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