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Fàbregas content to put team first

Having scored one goal and created another against Russia, Spain's Cesc Fàbregas is again ready "to make an impact" if deployed off the bench against Sweden.

Cesc Fàbregas impressed after coming on against Russia
Cesc Fàbregas impressed after coming on against Russia ©Getty Images

Part of the excellence of Spain's display in defeating Russia 4-1 in the first Group D match was the impact of Luis Aragonés's substitutions.

Perfect timing
Xabi Alonso seized control of the midfield passing and positioning, Santi Cazorla raced around creating havoc for Guus Hiddink's over-stretched defence, while Cesc Fàbregas created one goal and scored another. Despite Russia fully contributing to a memorable, end-to-end contest, Hiddink complained of his team's naïvety and wondered how Spain might cope against a more streetwise outfit. Sweden are certainly that, so test No2 will be ultra demanding. Perhaps the changes which Aragonés makes and the qualities his substitutes bring against the zonal-marking Swedes will be still more important.

High impact
"My attitude has always been that if you are on the bench it's a key task to keep mentally prepared," said Arsenal FC midfielder Fàbregas. "My philosophy is that it's just as likely for a player who starts on the bench to eventually win or turn a game. Whether you enter a game and the team is leading, or you come on when the side is behind, you psyche yourself up to make an impact. Of course you want to start, to be the star, but it's not hard for me at all if I start on the bench. If the boss needs me then I'll be there to make an impact."

Quality partnership
It is not surprising that the Zlatan Ibrahimović-Henrik Larsson partnership has attracted much of the pre-match comment in the Spanish media, despite the fact Luis Aragonés specifically named Johan Elmander as the Swede who most worries him. Larsson helped FC Barcelona play their best football in years while Ibrahimović has the memories of intense UEFA Champions League bouts against Spanish opponents in recent seasons – including a first knockout round defeat by Carlos Marchena's Valencia CF in 2006/07.

'Clean game'
"People ask me if it will be a heated contest against Zlatan or whether I expect a battle, but I'm just preparing for a competitive but clean game against a classy footballer," centre-back Marchena said. "Sweden are a very competitive side but they are a unit, not just two players. Zlatan and Henrik are their most famous players but it's not as if one good performance from our back four against these two will win us the match. If anyone thinks that our defenders are worried or unsure then let me assure them that it's not the case. Spain will defend as a team, not just as a back four, and if we keep their strikers as far from our penalty box as possible then it'll be a step towards victory."