Alonso backs automatic World Cup qualification
Defending World Cup holders should qualify automatically for the next competition, Real Madrid midfielder Xabi Alonso, part of the Spain squad that won the 2010 tournament, said Tuesday.
"Logically, as in many competitions and sports, the champion has the right to defend their title. FIFA does not allow for it but I think it is sufficiently important and fair that the winner have the right to qualify," he told a news conference ahead of Spain's friendly Friday against Saudi Arabia.
World Cup holders stopped getting automatic entry in the next competition at the 2006 World Cup in Germany.
In making the changes to the rules, football world governing body FIFA argued that the four years between competitions was a long time for any team to retain its strength.
After taking on Saudi Arabia in Pontevedra in northeastern Spain, the 2008 and 2012 European champions will face Georgia in Tbilisi on September 11 in their opening qualifying match for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.
"I think many of us are in a fortunate position where we are part of a group that has made history, but we are aware of the future that lies ahead. We don't want to rest on our laurels," said Alonso.
"We want to win more trophies. When the time comes when we stop winning we will face up to it in the best possible way," the 30-year-old added.
Alonso, who was outstanding as Spain retained their European title earlier this year, welcomed the return of David Villa, Spain's all-time leading scorer, to the national team after an eight month absence due to injury.
"It is great news for us. Villa brings much bite, he is a threat to the defence of our rivals, he creates a great deal of uncertainty," he said.
Last week Spain coach Vicente del Bosque included Villa in his squad for the matches against Saudi Arabia and Georgia.
The 30-year-old has not played for Spain since he broke his left leg last December while playing with Barcelona at the Club World Cup.
Alonso said the Spanish national team had "a great deal of respect" for Saudi Arabia's squad.
"They have taken part in may World Cups. We will play with the same professionalism and respect with which we face all our rivals," he said.
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