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Valdes ready to start for Spain vs. Uruguay

June 14, 2013

RECIFE, Brazil (AP) — Victor Valdes says he’s ready to play if he’s called up as Spain’s goalkeeper when the World Cup holders open the Confederations Cup against Uruguay on Sunday.

It’s either Valdes or Iker Casillas, and everything seems to point to the Barcelona keeper.

Valdes declined to confirm he’ll start, but Casillas would seem an unlikely choice.

He has not played a competitive match since breaking his left hand in a game in January. Even after it healed, he was left on the Real Madrid bench by coach Jose Mourinho in what evolved into a soap-opera personality conflict.

“I’m not the one to talk about it,” Valdes said Friday. “It’s the coach who decides who will start. I came here to help and I’m going to try to contribute my little morsel like everyone else. This is our team secret. Everyone giving something.”

The name of the starting keeper and whether coach Vicente del Bosque will go with a traditional striker — or with an attacking midfielder like Cesc Fabregas — are two questions facing Spain in Group B of the tournament. Spain also faces Tahiti and Nigeria and is a strong favorite to reach the knock-out semifinal round.

Valdes played his first match for Spain only three years ago. This pales in comparison to Casillas, who led Spain to two European championships, the 2010 World Cup title in South Africa and has been a starter for a decade at Real Madrid.

Valdes answered questions slowly and thoughtfully, peppered with inquiries from Spanish reporters. He said he’d do whatever was needed.

“Since I was called up for South Africa (2010) I have felt like the happiest kid on earth,” he said. “I had never had the privilege of playing for the team before. Today I still feel the same. I feel privileged to be here, and the most important is to be part of the team and help out as I can.”

Valdes was asked to describe his interaction with Casillas in practice, and to talk about Casillas’ new role with the team — perhaps as a reserve player.

“He’s the same as always, participating in practice,” Valdes said. “He’s concerned about the team. He’s just like before — terrific. There has been no change and I still see him as very motivated.”

Spain will be the clear favorite against Uruguay. In February in a friendly in Doha, Spain defeated Uruguay 3-1.

“This will be a different match than the one we played a few months ago,” Spain midfielder Santi Cazorla said. “They (Uruguay) are a tough team to beat, very competitive. They have (Edinson) Cavani, and (Luis) Suarez and (Diego) Forlan, and they are dangerous in the air.”


Follow Stephen Wade at http://twitter.com/StephenWadeAP

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