POTCHEFSTROOM - It is a measure of the strength in depth in the Spanish squad that Cesc Fabregas is not always one of the first names on the team sheet but the Arsenal captain remains a study in humility.
Now 23, the Barcelona native made his Spain debut in March 2006 at the age of 18 and if it were not for Xavi, a similarly creative midfield orchestrator, Fabregas would surely have many more than his 50 caps.
Even if he never played for Spain again, he would live on in the fans' memory for scoring the decisive penalty in the dramatic quarter-final shootout against Italy that paved the way for Spain's Euro 2008 triumph, a victory that is seen as helping turn La Roja from underachievers into genuine world beaters.
"There are players of incredible quality in this team," Fabregas, sporting dark stubble for the World Cup in South Africa, said at a news conference at Spain's training base in Potchefstroom on Sunday.
"I always accept the coach's decisions and I have to keep working with humility, compete with my team mates and when I have the chance give my all for the national team," he added.
"I am calm and happy to be part of the group and I only have words of thanks for everyone because being here with my colleagues you can only learn from them."
Fabregas joined Arsenal from Barcelona's youth school as a 16-year-old and after seven seasons has made it clear he wants to return to his former club to join players including Xavi, Andres Iniesta, Carles Puyol and Gerard Pique who form the backbone of the current Spain side.
Xavi, voted player of the tournament at Euro 2008, turned 30 in January and Fabregas is his obvious replacement over the longer term, both at Barca and in the national side.
As he recovers from the cracked bone that sidelined him from the final few weeks of the Premier League season, Fabregas is adamant the uncertainty over his future will not distract him from the task in hand in South Africa.
"I am isolated from it all and I am not thinking about anything else apart from the national team," he said.
"I have come to play a World Cup, which is the best thing possible for a player, with the same excitement that I had at the World Cup in Germany when I was 19.
"I am hungry to do something important and the only thing I will do is always give everything, with a lot of desire and make sure the hunger and competitiveness are never lacking."
Spain, one of the tournament favourites, play their opening Group H match against Switzerland on Wednesday in Durban.comments