Alonso honoured to join Barca stars
Real Madrid midfielder Xabi Alonso says it is a "privilege" to play alongside Spain's galaxy of Barcelona stars at the World Cup.
The determination of Spain's players to set aside differences stemming from the massive Real Madrid-Barcelona rivalry from La Liga has been cited as a key factor in their extraordinary success in recent years, including their triumph at the 2008 European Championships and now their appearance in their first World Cup final.
Barcelona's 'tiki-taki' style of possession-based, pass-and-move football has been replicated by Spain, who featured seven Barcelona players in their starting XI for their semi-final against Germany, including new signing David Villa. Although he doesn't share the same club bond as many of his team-mates, Alonso is feeling right at home alongside the likes of Barcelona's midfield maestros Xavi and Andres Iniesta.
"It is a privilege to be among this group of players,'' he said. "There is so much quality. I have always tried to give my best so I never worried that I would not find a way into the side. We have great competition and that is good for the team because it brings the best out of everyone. Whenever you are playing you have to be ready and whenever you are on the bench you have to believe you will come on.''
With likely Golden Boot winner David Villa failing to find the net in the 1-0 semi-final win over Germany and Fernando Torres still to get off the mark in the competition, Spain owe their place in the final to veteran defender Carles Puyol, who powered home a header 17 minutes from time in Durban. Puyol has been performing as well as ever, yet the 32-year-old's international future remains open to question after indications earlier this year that the Barcelona centre-half would call it a day once he got home from South Africa.
"There will be time to think after Sunday,'' said Puyol, who will be winning his 90th cap. "No decision has been made. I will talk about it with the coach (Vicente Del Bosque) and the sporting director (Fernando Hierro) after the final.''