Ahead of the match against Germany in the World Cup semifinals, Spanish players say that the German team is "the best" in the 2010 soccer competition.
Spain and Germany will face off again on Wednesday, in effect replaying in South Africa the Eurocopa 2008 final. Spanish players see an improved Germany with more technical quality and a new batch of players whose synergy on and off the field have allowed them to attain their current top form.
"It's the best team in the World Cup and they have shown it by their manner of play against England and Argentina," Spain's captain, Iker Casillas, said.
"We have the greatest respect for them. We know that the semifinal is going to be a very complicated game, that they have a great desire for revenge from the Eurocopa 2008," Casillas said.
All the members of the European championship squad expressed similar respect and good memories when they spoke about Germany, especially Fernando Torres, the scorer of the goal that gave the title to Spain in Vienna two years ago.
"I've always been a great follower of German soccer. It's an impressive team and they've shown it by scoring four goals against a team with the characteristics of Argentina. We must be prepared for a demanding encounter. It's a much-anticipated (match)," Torres said.
That growth on the part of the German team was also emphasised by Cesc Fabregas.
"Now they have more quality and they continue to be equal in physical strength. They've improved a lot compared to the Eurocopa. For me, up to now they've been the strongest in the World Cup. We'll have to play our best soccer, if we want to beat them," Fabregas said.
Sergio Ramos commented along the same lines.
"If Germany has one thing it's that in past years and at present they've always been in the final (matches) of the great championships. We have a huge amount of respect for them because it's one of the greatest (teams) and their presence is habitual in a great final" set of matches, Ramos said.
The star goal-scorer of the South African World Cup, David Villa, emphasised the important loss that Germany has had, now not being able to count on Thomas Muller.
"Germany's a great team that has had a very important career at the World Cup. Always a tough rival. It's the (team) that's in the best shape that's in the championship. We'll go up against them in a great match, two teams that will be looking for victory," Villa said.