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World Cup: Spain’s dominance faces ultimate test in Brazil

Spain-dominanceSpain`s desire for glory on the international stage is as strong as ever but the champions will need something special if they are to become the first Europeans to win the World Cup in the Americas.

The only nation from the continent to triumph in soccer`s global showpiece outside Europe, thanks to their triumph in South Africa four years ago, La Roja got an indication of the task facing them when they were humbled 3-0 by hosts Brazil in last year`s Confederations Cup final.

The pressure of the occasion at an intimidating Maracana Stadium in Rio De Janeiro, where July`s World Cup final will be held, was too much for them.

They were unable to match Brazil`s intensity as they fell to what is one of only three defeats under coach Vicente Del Bosque in competitive games since he took over nearly six years ago.

That Brazil were able to dominate a Spain team used to having the lion`s share of possession was partly due to the absence of the injured Xabi Alonso, whose partnership with Sergio Busquets in midfield creates a stable platform for more creative team mates such as Xavi, Andres Iniesta and Cesc Fabregas to weave their magic.

Del Bosque, who masterminded Spain`s campaign in South Africa and led them to a second straight European title two years ago, will have learned from the reverse.

The former Real Madrid coach has only had to tinker with his team since he took over from the late Luis Aragones after the Euro 2008 triumph but has begun recently to give more playing time to some of Spain`s promising youngsters.

While he may be reluctant to experiment too much in Brazil and risk upsetting the balance of a side stuffed with proven champions, he will have recourse to players capable of coming off the bench and changing a game like creative midfielder Koke or forward Juan Mata.

Perhaps his most significant move was the controversial decision late last year to call Brazil-born forward Diego Costa into the squad, which provoked outrage in Costa`s native country.

Spain scored just eight times in seven games at the 2010 World Cup and Costa, who made his debut in a 1-0 friendly win against Italy in March, could provide the cutting edge that La Roja sometimes lack up front if he can shake off a series of niggling injuries that have dogged him in recent weeks.

The 25-year-old has scored a hatful of goals for Atletico Madrid in La Liga and the Champions League this season, and his combative playing style, strength in the air and prowess shooting with either foot strike fear into any defence.

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