Spain stronger after Swiss 'wake-up call'
Spain striker Fernando Llorente has admitted his side's 1-0 loss to Switzerland in their World Cup opener was the "slap in the face" they needed to become a stronger team and said they'll need to be at their best against quarter-final opponents Paraguay.
No one expected the pre-tournament favourites to come away with anything other than three points against the Swiss, who defendly stoutly for 90 minutes and made the most of a rare foray forward by scoring through Gelson Fernandes in the second half.
Llorente, who featured for the first time at this World Cup coming off the bench in Spain's 1-0 second round win over Iberian neighbours Portugal, believes the Switzerland match provided the "wake-up call" the team needed to regain focus and avoid the sort of slip-ups that have seen some of world football's biggest names crash out before the quarter-final stage.
So while a quarter-final meeting with Paraguay looks on paper to be a kind draw for the European champions, Llorente insists Spain will be taking nothing for granted.
"There are no easy games here. You only need to look at our opening group match. It looked straight-forward but Switzerland gave us a big fright. Sometimes things look easy but turn out not to be," Llorente told FIFA's website. "After we lost our first game I said it would make us a lot stronger. It was like a slap in the face and a real wake-up call. I'm glad it happened then rather than in the second round.
"Other teams know how we play and so they keep things very tight at the back. That tactic makes our opponents very dangerous because if they grab a goal on the counter-attack it makes life very difficult. At the moment we're only focusing on Paraguay. We're treating them just as we did Portugal because you can't underestimate anybody. If they're in the quarters it's because they deserve it."
Spain coach Vicente del Bosque is yet to settle on his best attacking formula, with Fernando Torres looking out-of-form up front but David Villa lighting up the tournament with goals scored when cutting in from a left wing position. Llorente replaced Torres as the attacking focal point against Portugal and while goalkeeper Eduardo kept him off the scoresheet with some fine saves, he was happy to have featured and helped his team make the breakthrough, which came through Villa five minutes after Llorente came on.
"I'd been waiting for this moment for a long time," he said. "I'm really happy to have made my World Cup debut and helped the team win the game. It was an incredible moment to come on because everybody was so tense, particularly on the bench. But once you get on the field everything happens really fast, you try to do your best and you don't feel as nervous.
"I was ready to go out there and add some more intensity to the mix. We'd had more chances than them and shown more attacking intent. I just tried to keep their centre-backs busy and hold the ball up when it came to me. I came so close to getting a goal. I had a few chances but their keeper played really well."