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Spain's problem: too many center forwards, says Vicente Del Bosque

Photo: Kathy Willens/AP

David Villa has long been Spain's star striker, but he's being pushed now.

RECIFE, Brazil (AP) -- Spain coach Vicente del Bosque has a "problem'' up front that others would like to have: too many center forwards playing in the traditional "No. 9'' position.

Look for Del Bosque to use the Confederations Cup to do some tinkering in the position, and Valencia striker Roberto Soldado is the new name in the mix.

Soldado will be competing for playing time in that slot with Barcelona forward David Villa and Chelsea striker Fernando Torres.

Del Bosque also has the option of playing with the so-called "false No. 9,'' which is usually Barcelona midfielder Cecs Fabregas.

"I work each day to be Spain's No. 9 and be on the team,'' Soldado said Thursday, speaking as a tropical rainstorm pounded this coastal city in Brazil's northeast.

"We have seen that the national team plays well when it uses the traditional set up, or when it plays the other way,'' Soldado added. "I think being able to switch like this gives the coach good alternatives. It's positive for the team.''

Del Bosque has often played without the striker, preferring to rely on possession and quick passes to find scoring angles.

But he's seeing it is hard to ignore Soldado, who scored 24 goals in the Spanish league, surpassed only by the likes of Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, Radamel Falcao and Alvaro Negredo.

By comparison, Torres had only eight in the Premier League this season for Chelsea, and Villa managed only 10 with Barcelona.

Del Bosque has been non-committal about his strategy in the Confederations Cup, which Spain has never won. It was deprived of the chance of facing Brazil in the 2009 final in South Africa when it was beaten by the United States 2-0.

For Soldado, the tournament is a big chance for a player who came up through the youth ranks of Real Madrid.

"A championship at this level is important no matter where it's played,'' Soldado said. "Maybe it's a bit more special since it's in Brazil, given the tradition here. For me it's special since it will be my first championship playing for the national side. It's very motivating.''

Sitting next to right winger Jesus Navas, who signed this week with Manchester City, Soldado was asked if he had plans to leave Valencia.

"I am very comfortable at Valencia,'' Soldado said. "I have a contract until 2016 and I want to fulfill it. I have said I'd like to test other leagues like England or Germany, but this is in the distant future.''

Rain has pounded the area for several days, and Spain arrived late Wednesday during a deluge that flooded many of Recife's pot-holed streets.

Soldado said heavy rain could help Spain, which relies on quick, one-touch passes and control.

"With a little rain, the speed of the ball changes,'' he said. "It could be important because the tradition here in South America is to have the field dry with the ball moving more slowly. The rain could give us a hand.''

Copyright 2014 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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