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Pique happy to avoid Brazil, play Portugal

sports Updated: Jun 26, 2010 19:49 IST

AP
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Spain defender Gerard Pique is happy to have avoided Brazil in the last 16 of the World Cup as his team prepares to play Portugal on Tuesday.

Spain beat 10-man Chile 2-1 to finish top of Group H on Friday. "The victory was key because it is fundamental to avoid teams like Brazil," Pique said.

But Pique was the only Spanish player to express joy at having avoided the five-time champions to instead play Portugal, led by Cristiano Ronaldo, at Green Point Stadium in Cape Town on Tuesday. Most of Spain's players know their Portuguese opponents from the Spanish league, like Ronaldo at Real Madrid. Ronaldo's first season at Madrid was difficult because his club lost both of their matches to Barcelona, which makes up the core of this Spain team.

"I'm worried about Portugal, not (Ronaldo)," coach Vicente Del Bosque said. "We saw how they controlled Brazil. They didn't let them play their football and were strong on the counterattack. There's no extra satisfaction in getting Portugal over Brazil." Spain labored to a hard-fought win over a physical Chile side, which showed that defensive play isn't the only way to bother the 2008 European champion.

While Switzerland defended and scored on one of its few chances in a 1-0 group win, Chile kept Spain off-kilter by denying it the bulk of possession until Marco Estrada's sending off after 37 minutes.

"We weren't at all comfortable in midfield," Xavi Hernandez said, "but we got through it. We're happy to finish first in the group without playing at an extraordinary level." Barcelona midfielder Xavi looked sub-par against the Chileans, with Spain's most creative attacks out of midfield mostly coming off the boot of Cesc Fabregas after he replaced Fernando Torres in the 55th.

Under Del Bosque, Spain has edged away from full-out attacking football, as Dunga has done with Brazil. That has left perhaps Spain's greatest weapon _ its talented midfield _ thinner, with Fabregas and David Silva confined to the bench.

One of those two could still make the lineup against Portugal as Xabi Alonso nurses a sprained right ankle, although Silva hasn't played since the loss to Switzerland.

But Del Bosque may prefer to partner Javi Martinez with Sergio Busquets as holding midfielders instead. Martinez made his debut after replacing Alonso in the 73rd.

The team enjoyed the day off in Potchefstroom before training later.

"After the defeat to Switzerland we went through a bad time but what is most important is that we've recovered and reached our objective," Del Bosque said. "We deserved to finish where we did after an excellent game _ we were better."