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Jon Riley 15th Jun 2010 - 8:47

Spanish eyes on the prize and Swiss demise

Switzerland will be dreading the start of their World Cup finals campaign as they begin against the European champions and World Cup favourites Spain.

Spain are full of top quality players and are ranked as the number two side in the world.

Before their triumph in 2008 in Austria and Switzerland, Spain had a reputation for not delivering on the big stage. This shouldn't be a problem in South Africa though.

La Roja are able to dictate the play against the vast majority of their opponents as a result of their midfielders Xavi, Andres Iniesta and Cesc Fabregas. Such is the quality of the Barcelona duo though that Arsenal's captain is not guaranteed to play. Neither is Real Madrid's midfield orchestrator Xavi Alonso, once again highlighting the talent at coach Vicente Del Bosque's disposal.

Their ball retention and creativity should be too much for Switzerland to handle. Therefore the 90 minute result should be the one that is fully expected, a Spain win (1/4).

Better value can be found in the handicap market. Spain -2 goals is 23/10 and with a forward line of recent Barcelona capture David Villa and Liverpool's Fernando Torres then goals should be free flowing.

Villa is the bookies favourite to land the tournament's golden boot award, priced at 6/1 in the outright market. Nicknamed El Guaje, "the kid" in Asturian, his goal scoring exploits for Valencia have earned him a dream move to the Nou Camp. The potential absence of Fernando Torres alongside him could give him even more freedom in the box, feeding off the sumptuous through balls from the Spanish midfield. He is priced at 5/2 to open the scoring and 4/7 anytime.

If Torres starts the game he is priced at 10/3 to open the scoring. Despite injuries that have dogged El Nino's season his goal ratio was still quite amazing. The Switzerland defence will be very, very wary of Torres regardless of his fitness.

The value bet to score anytime for Del Bosque's side though could be Barca's Pedro Rodriguez at 5/4. In an impressive campaign at the Nou Camp, Pedro established himself in Pep Guardiola's starting XI and now the 22-year-old will try and break into the national side.

For Switzerland the best they can hope for is to try and keep it tight by parking the bus in front of the goal as they do not have the attacking players to match Spain's goalscoring ability. Although they will take heart from the United States shock victory over Spain in the 2009 Confederations Cup. America's dogged and resolute display denied the Spanish any space to manoeuvre , almost suffocating the flair and style out of the game.

The Schweizer Nati are a huge 11/1 to defeat Spain in this Group H clash.

Led by the likes of Hakan Yakin (20/1 first scorer) and Alexander Frei (12/1), head coach Ottmar Hitzfeld certainly has the ability to guide his team past the group stages.

At the World Cup in Germany four years ago the Swiss exited against Ukraine in the second round without conceding a goal in open play. The penalties that were scored against them in that subsequent penalty shootout were the first shots to beat Swiss keeper Pascal Zuberbuhler.

If they are to get anything from this game they'll need stoic and heroic defending once more. The experts are not so sure though, to keep a clean sheet in this game the Swiss are priced at 11/2 compared to the 4/9 offered to Spain.

Hitzfeld is a wily old manager and could well deploy a formation to frustrate the Spaniards but I can't see past a Spain victory.

I would recommend a double result of Spain/Spain at 8/11 and Gerard Pique anytime goalscorer at 7/1.




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