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Confidence Tinged with Caution Coming from Spanish Camp

Russia are more than Andrei Arshavin and Spanish fans should not expect an easy 4-1 win against them like in the group stage, Spain midfielder Xavi Hernandez said ahead of their semi-final showdown.

Spain's Cesc Fabregas, left, celebrates after scoring a goal with fellow team member Xavi Fernandez

Confidence is high but the Spanish are approaching the Russia game with caution

But the Barcelona ace Xavi also said that Spain will continue to play attacking soccer on Thursday, June 26, in Vienna in its aim to win the tournament for the first time in 44 years.

"We want to dominate, have as much possession as possible and play attacking soccer. We want to win and to get into the final," Xavi told a news conference at the team's Euro base camp in Austria.

Spain's morale was boosted by a shootout quarter-final win against World Cup champions Italy, but Russia were even more impressive in their 3-1 victory against the fancied Dutch in the first knockout match.

And Spain will also not be deceived by the 4-1 win from the group stage -- a match for which Arshavin was suspended.

"This is a semi-final," insisted Xavi. "It will be a completely different match. Russia have unbelievable confidence. The victory against a Euro favorite has further boosted its morale," he added.

Xavi said that "Russia are more than Arshavin...They have players like [Roman] Pavyluchenko and the left back [Yuri Zhirkov] who were not known in Europe before."

Fellow-midfielder Marcos Senna agreed. "Arshavin and his teammates played strongly against the Dutch. We are warned and must be on our guard," said Senna.

Senna even suggested that he would be ready for the substitutes' bench, after suffering from cramps against Italy, to give Spain the best possible chance to win. "A teammate should play if I am not fit," said Senna.

Aragones hoping to field strongest team

Coach Luis Aragones, who would prefer to field the same starting 11 as against Italy on Sunday, scrapped Tuesday's training session in order to have his players as fit as possible for the big match.

Spain's David Villa, right, celebrates with teammate Fernando Torres

Torres and Villa are likely to start up front for Spain

Confidence is running high in the team which is unbeaten in 20 matches -- as shown by Senna. "We approach the next two matches fully concentrated," he said, only to quickly add, "it's obviously the semi-final first."

Penalty hero Cesc Fabregas made clear Spain's ambition at Euro 2008, where they overcame a key psychological hurdle by beating Italy in the quarter-finals.

"We have come here to be the champions, not to get through the quarter-finals. We have come here to go down in history among those who have become European champions," he stressed.

Fabregas has his eyes on the prize

Fabregas scored the decisive penalty in the shoot-out that gave Spain a win over Italy on Sunday, and Luis Aragones' side now face Russia in Thursday's semi-final in Vienna.

This was the Arsenal player's first great day in the national team shirt. He has raised many doubts by his failure to produce with Spain the outstanding performances that he has shown in the Premier League.

"For many people it has been hard to trust me. It was the chance to show all those people that they can trust me and that at important moments I can get the team going," Fabregas said. "It meant an awful lot to me."

The young midfielder, 21, stressed that he feels he has the backing of Aragones, despite not being in the team's starting line-up.

Spain's Cesc Fabregas, left, scores the decisive goal from the penalty sport past Italy's Gianluigi Buffon

Fabregas scored the winning penalty against Italy

"[Aragones] has trusted me, and it shows: he asked me to take the fifth penalty, which is usually the decisive one," he noted. "I just want to make the best possible contribution to the team, be it in the last half-hour or five minutes. I do not want glory for myself alone, we all deserve it. The coach has me at his disposal whenever he wants," Fabregas said.

He noted that Spain have a difficult game Thursday against Russia, although the side coached by Aragones already beat the Russians 4-1 in the first round of the Euro.

"If we think that Russia will be the same rival we had in the first round we would be wrong. We would go into the game losing 1-0. We have to keep our feet on the ground," Fabregas said. "The history we want to make is to get into the group of teams that have won the title."

He stressed that Russia is "a very complete team, with good, young players who have a desire to win."

"They remind me of our team because they have the same ambition to play better and to show that they are capable of winning," Fabregas said of the Russian side.

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