Del Bosque: English influence has helped Spain

BLOEMFONTEIN, South Africa - Spain have emerged as the best team in the world partly because so many important players play in the English Premier League, coach Vicente Del Bosque said on Tuesday. Victory over Iraq in their Group A Confederations Cup match on Wednesday would send Spain into the semi-finals with a game to spare following their 5-0 rout of New Zealand on Sunday. Such is the confidence and expectation surrounding Spain that they are not only favourites to win this tournament but also next year's World Cup. "The fact Spanish players are going abroad, especially to England is one of the factors that have lifted Spain," Del Bosque told reporters. "There are six players in the Spanish squad who play there now, and playing in England has helped improve them a lot. "Forty or 50 years ago Spain played an English style of football, but that's not true today. Instead, the players have learnt new things in England and other places they have gone. "They have a greater tactical awareness, they have blossomed as people, they are more mature than they were before and this was certainly something that was important for the formation of this team." FIVE PLAYERS Fernando Torres, who scored a hat-trick against New Zealand is one of five players at Liverpool, along with midfielders Xabi Alonso and Albert Riera, goalkeeper Pepe Reina and defender Alvaro Arbeloa. Midfielder Cesc Fabregas is at Arsenal and Gerard Pique had a spell in England with Manchester United. Del Bosque said he was very pleased with his team despite his dour demeanour during matches. "I am very happy," he said smiling. "I was happy inside five times when all the goals were scored. "But things change so quickly in a match that you have to sit there on the bench and concentrate. You would look foolish if something happened and you had been smiling just a moment before." Spain would notch up their 14th consecutive match by beating Iraq and stretch their unbeaten run to 34 games, one short of Brazil's all-time record. "The records are extra motivation," he said. "But the most important thing is to get to the semi-finals."