Euro champion Spain begins World Cup schedule

JOHANNESBURG (AP) — The last time Spain played in South Africa, it was stunned by the United States in the Confederations Cup semifinals. That is the Spaniards only loss in 49 games, and they won a European Championship in that span.

On Wednesday, they begin pursuit of their first World Cup title when they play Switzerland in Durban, the last nations to get under way in the tournament.

"There's high expectations because of our trajectory over the past years, people see we can play well and that's positive," striker David Villa said. "I wouldn't say it's pressure, it's more like flattery."

Spain plays an attractive style featuring plenty of passing, exquisite ball control and a knack for scoring timely goals. And in Iker Casillas, it has one of the world's best goalkeepers.

Spain is also loaded with stars, from strikers Villa and Fernando Torres, who is recovering from a right leg injury and may not start, to midfielders Xavi Hernandez, Xabi Alonso, Andres Iniesta and Cesc Fabregas. Defense is solid with Carles Puyol and Gerard Pique as center backs, Sergio Ramos and Joan Capdevila as fullbacks.

The question is will this lineup intimidate the Swiss, who couldn't advance as a co-host at the 2008 Euros.

"We have been talking about this World Cup for a long time, so now we just want to get out there and start playing," defender Philippe Senderos said. "We're very confident that we're going out there to take our chances."

The Group H match concludes the first set of opening-round games. Earlier Wednesday, Honduras faces Chile at Nelspruit.

Host South Africa, fresh from a 1-1 draw with Mexico to begin the first World Cup staged in Africa, takes on Uruguay at Pretoria. The South Americans tied 0-0 with France in their opener.

Each team has an injured striker named Suazo. Chile's Humberto injured his right thigh two weeks ago. He's expected to play. Honduras' David also has a right thigh injury and could be inactive.

Chile finished one point behind Brazil in South American qualifiers, while Honduras sneaked into the tournament in the final minutes of CONCACAF qualifying.

"We only think about attacking," Chile coach Marcelo Bielsa said. "We will try to attack as much as we can."

Aside from Suazo, the key offensive players for Chile are forwards Matias Fernandez and Alexis Sanchez.

Chile hasn't won a World Cup match since 1962.

Honduras' only previous World Cup was in 1982, when it had two first-round draws, but did not advance. It has experienced players who are regulars in Europe, including Wigan defenders Maynor Figueroa and Hendry Thomas; Tottenham midfielder Wilson Palacios; and David Suazo, Julio De Leon and Edgar Alvarez, who play in Italy.

Still, they are perceived as underdogs.

"Favoritism is off the pitch," defender Sergio Mendoza said. "Nobody can say you are a favorite and somebody else is a Cinderella. I think we all deserve respect."

Bafana Bafana earned loads of respect by drawing with Mexico, the favorite in Group A. A win over Uruguay would go a long way to assure South Africa doesn't become the first host nation not to advance in a World Cup.

"We will be more relaxed against Uruguay now that we have Mexico out of the way. We were all nervous in that first game," midfielder Steven Pienaar said. "But we got our act together in the second half and need to continue from there against Uruguay."

The South Americans will be without midfielder Nicolas Lodeiro, who received two yellow cards against France and is suspended for the match. Potent striker Diego Forlan must find some room to operate.