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Clint Dempsey

Clint Dempsey

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Del Bosque enjoys �Galacticos� experience with Spanish starsBLOEMFONTEIN - Labeled as the world�s best football team, according to FIFA rankings, Spain takes on United States in the Confederations Cup semifinal game tonight, hoping to set the record of longest unbeaten streak in international football.

This achievement is mainly owed to coach Vicente Del Bosque�s skill to get the best out of a star-studded squad.

Dealing with Zinedine Zidane, Ronaldo and Luis Figo was just about the best preparation for what Vicente del Bosque has endured as coach of Spain's record-breaking football team.Del Bosque, the former Real Madrid coach who tamed the "galacticos," has kept the world's top-ranked team on course as favorite for next year's World Cup since replacing Luis Aragones after last year's European Championship victory."I think every coach has his style, has his way of doing things.

You normally coach a group that features different traits.

The most important thing is you make sure the group works," Del Bosque said in an interview with The Associated Press at Spain's team base.

"There is no unique recipe, but luckily we've done it well."Spain already has the record for consecutive victories - 15 - and can now set a mark of 36 games without a loss by getting past the United States tonight to reach the Confederations Cup final."We have our style of playing with players going forward with a lot of joy, but football is also about luck and I think we've had some of that," Del Bosque said.

"It's true that this group is among the best.

But I still believe there is more to do."Spain, which hasn't lost since November 2006, has based its attack on Barcelona's game of one-touch, possession football, with the country's abundance of talented midfielders perfect for the plan.

But that has also meant players like Cesc Fabregas or Xabi Alonso, who are stars in the Premier League, can also end up sitting on the bench.It reminds Del Bosque of his days at the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium, when he had to deal with a litany of international superstars."Whenever you talk about elite teams there's cruelty, there are issues that can be difficult to manage," Del Bosque said.

"There are 11 that play and 15 that don't play - does that not seem cruel? To be fair in that situation it's difficult, because everyone thinks that they should be playing.

Managing that is not easy."It won't get any easier for Del Bosque, either, with injured regulars Andres Iniesta and Marcos Senna expected to return for the 2010 World Cup while replacements like Sergio Busquets and Juanma Mata have filled in admirably."We tried to do what was done before, what we believed should work for the team, adapting to the players we've had available.

I'm not sure if it's better or worse than what was done before, but it's what we are doing," said Del Bosque, who paid tribute to Aragones' work, which ended 44 years of disappointment at major tournaments.

"Our obligation is to prepare for the future while respecting all those who have made this such a great team."Difficult lessonThe United States is also learning a difficult lesson at the Confederations Cup as it performs without injured captain Carlos Bocanegra.

The Rennes defender has yet to play a part in his team's run to the semifinals and could sit out tonight's match against Spain because of a persistent hamstring injury.

But Jay DeMerit and Oguchi Onyewu have started to show increasing understanding in central defense, culminating in a mostly untroubled clean sheet in Sunday's 3-0 win over African champion Egypt."They have been solid in the back," United States coach Bob Bradley said.

"There still are some moments when I think we lose our line too easily.

The understanding between Jay and Gooch at times is such that one will drop too far off and they're not always perfectly in synch, but you can see the understanding getting better."With Jonathan Spector and Jonathan Bornstein the fullbacks, Bradley has kept an unchanged defense in all three group matches, although he did switch goalkeepers from Tim Howard to Brad Guzan on Sunday.

Spector and Bornstein also had attacking roles to play against Egypt, each setting up a goal.Bornstein helped create the opener for Charlie Davies with an alert throw to Jozy Altidore, while Spector sent in a swinging 40-meter cross from deep on the right that Clint Dempsey headed in to round off the scoring."Spector hit a great ball in and I happened to be on the right side of the defender," Dempsey said.

"I used my body to get a little bit of space and tried to get my head on it.

I put it toward goal, kept it low and it found the back of the net.

I didn't know that was going to be the goal to get us through."Bradley said the experience of the 3-1 opening loss to Italy and the 3-0 loss to a fluid Brazil side could only have helped improve the defense, which will need to be in full working order for next month's Gold Cup and the Aug.

12 World Cup qualifier at Mexico."It's been a good challenge, especially when you play teams where the movement underneath the back four is such that there's different guys coming from the second line and everything else," he said.

"It's been challenging but we've seen some good efforts."
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