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Page last updated at 10:01 GMT, Wednesday, 30 June 2010 11:01 UK

Fernando Torres backed by Spain strike partner Villa

Fernando Torres
Spain scored after Torres was substituted against Portugal

David Villa has defended his Spain team-mate Fernando Torres following criticism of the Liverpool striker's performances in the World Cup.

Torres, who underwent knee surgery before the tournament, struggled in the group phase and was substituted during Spain's second-round win over Portugal.

"I don't agree with those who say that Fernando Torres' performances have been below par," said Villa.

"The only blame you can pin on him is that he hasn't scored."

Villa's goal in the 1-0 victory against Portugal - his fourth of the World Cup - set up a quarter-final showdown with Paraguay.

David Villa scores for Spain

Highlights - Spain 1-0 Portugal

It came midway through the second half, before which the Portuguese kept Spain at bay with some resolute defending.

"There was never any fear - 99% of the time our style of play means victory," added Villa.

"We suffered a lot against these teams that decided to play us at the back, but you have to have patience and adapt your style."

Spain, the European champions, seem to be growing in stature although Torres' place could be under threat after another frustrating performance.

WORLD CUP PHOTO ALBUM

But Villa insisted: "We know what state his knee was in a month ago. His desire to be with the team has been spectacular."

Coach Vicente Del Bosque has kept faith with Torres so far but admitted his lack of sharpness was the reason behind the decision to replace him with Fernando Llorente during the Portugal game.

"It was more than a tactical change," explained Del Bosque.

"It was about bringing on a player who was fresh. Llorente brought that physical vitality to the team.

"Fernando (Torres) worked hard, as we all have over the past month.

"The substitution was made because Torres had done a lot of running and we needed fresh legs. Llorente had a very good final half-hour."

Del Bosque believes Spain have recaptured their confidence after clicking into gear for the first time in South Africa to wear down a stubborn defence.

We're taking it step by step. We know the potential we have

Spain striker David Villa

"The match was extremely intense. In the second half, we were better than Portugal. We had greater depth in our play and we controlled the game very well.

"We felt comfortable but you have to be careful because things can change quickly," he said.

Despite a rich pedigree in the club game, Spain have never won the World Cup.

A semi-final against either Germany or Argentina - who have won the competition five times between them - awaits, if they overcome Paraguay in Johannesburg on Saturday.

"Our confidence is rising and we want to make history," Del Bosque added. "We know we're working well."

Villa, who Spanish champions Barcelona signed from Valencia for £35m just before the World Cup, is now a strong contender for player of the tournament, as well as top scorer.

"We're taking it step by step," said Villa. "We've left a very difficult rival behind. We know the potential we have. Paraguay are another difficult rival."



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see also
Highlights - Spain 1-0 Portugal
29 Jun 10 |  World Cup 2010
Ronaldo 'broken' by Portugal exit
30 Jun 10 |  World Cup 2010
Villa breaks down stubborn Portugal
29 Jun 10 |  World Cup 2010
Fernando Torres on Cristiano Ronaldo
28 Jun 10 |  match_48
Spain's Villa escapes punishment
23 Jun 10 |  World Cup 2010
Team tracker and Predictor
27 May 10 |  World Cup 2010
World Cup venues
05 Dec 09 |  World Cup 2010


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FROM OTHER SPORT SITES
Daily Statesman Injury scare for Afridi ahead of Oz series - 1 hr ago
Glasgow Evening Times David Villa backing for strike pal Fernando Torres - 2 hrs ago
The Sun Fernando Torres is being backed to end his World Cup goal drought - 3 hrs ago
Yahoo! UK and Ireland Spain striker Llorente surprised by praise - 4 hrs ago
The Statesman Villa backs Torres - 7 hrs ago


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