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Football: Del Bosque coy on Casillas selection

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

Spain coach Vicente del Bosque refused to reveal on Wednesday whether or not Iker Casillas will start in goal in the Confederations Cup semi-final against Italy in Fortaleza on Thursday.

Del Bosque rotated his three goalkeepers -- Casillas, Pepe Reina and Victor Valdes -- during the group phase, with each player playing a match each.

Casillas, 32, captained Spain to success at the 2010 World Cup and the European Championships of 2008 and 2012, but his position came under scrutiny after he lost his place in the Real Madrid team under Jose Mourinho.

In an interview with Spanish newspaper AS, Del Bosque had hinted strongly that Casillas would start against Italy, but he was less forthcoming in Wednesday's pre-game press conference.

"Regarding Casillas, you will see tomorrow if the player doesn't play," Del Bosque said. "I don't want to reveal who will be in the team tomorrow."

Del Bosque was nonetheless upbeat about midfielder Cesc Fabregas and striker Roberto Soldado's chances of participating in the game.

Both players went off during the 3-0 win over Nigeria on Sunday due to muscular problems, but they took part in training with the rest of the squad at Estadio Castelao on Wednesday.

"They trained well yesterday (Tuesday), albeit with the physio, but I think they're feeling good," Del Bosque said.

"Today they will train and we'll see if they feel good and if we can count on them."

Although Del Bosque was unwilling to confirm Casillas' participation, Sergio Busquets said he and his team-mates would welcome the return of a player who has made a record 146 appearances for his country.

"He's our captain and he's a player who has played the most matches for the national team," said the Barcelona holding midfielder.

"He is very important from a football point of view. He always produces huge performances and at the decisive moments, he always shows up."

Italy will be without key striker Mario Balotelli, who has returned to AC Milan for treatment on a thigh injury, but Del Bosque said his opposite number, Cesare Prandelli, had enough quality in his squad to compensate.

"I'm sure that for the Italians, it's important -- he's a first-team player, their reference point in attack, and a powerful guy," said the Spain coach.

"Obviously it's a casualty for them, but as with any other casualty, there's no need to dramatise it. They have other players, with other characteristics, who start for their clubs.

"I don't think it will be decisive."

Spain's preparations have been clouded by reports in the Brazilian media that some of the squad's players invited women back to their hotel rooms for a party following the opening 2-1 win over Uruguay.

However, the Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) has issued a statement strongly denying the reports, and Del Bosque said he had "nothing else to say" about the affair.

The winners of Thursday's semi-final will play either Uruguay or hosts Brazil in the final in Rio de Janeiro on Sunday.

thw/pi

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130626/football-del-bosque-coy-casillas-selection