Michu relishing challenge of securing Spain spot

By Iain Rogers

MADRID (Reuters) - Swansea City forward Michu says being called up by Spain filled him with childlike joy but at the same time he knows convincing coach Vicente del Bosque he deserves a place in the team will not be easy.

Del Bosque drafted in the 27-year-old after the withdrawal of injured David Villa but with the stiffest of competition in a glittering squad Michu may struggle to play in the holders' final two World Cup qualifiers against Belarus in Palma de Mallorca on Friday and Georgia in Albacete four days later.

Michu is one of a host of gifted goal-scorers vying for a place in the side, including Manchester City's David Silva and Alvaro Negredo, Barcelona's Pedro, Chelsea's Juan Mata and Real Madrid's Isco.

Michu, who joined up with the rest of the squad in Madrid on Tuesday, has plenty to offer with his strength in the air and an ability to arrive in the danger areas at the right time perhaps matched among the current Spain contingent only by Barca playmaker Cesc Fabregas.

He has made 43 appearances for Michael Laudrup's Swansea side since joining from Rayo Vallecano in 2012 for what has proved a bargain fee of around 2 million pounds and his performances in the Premier League and the injury to Villa have finally prompted his first call-up by Spain.

"Every Spanish footballer dreams of this and it's so difficult," Michu, whose full name is Miguel Perez Cuesta, said on Swansea's website (www.swanseacity.net).

"Few people can wear the shirt of the best team in the world," he added.

"There are a lot of players missing, but there are great players in the squad. Let's see if fortune is with me and I can play, although I'm already grateful to be called up.

"It's the maximum to which a footballer can aspire. The national team is the best in the world - it's a privilege.

"I'm enjoying it like a kid, these are the best players in the world and it will be difficult, but I'll try to take advantage of the opportunity."

STRONG POSITION

Undefeated Spain are in a strong position at the top of European qualification Group I with 14 points from six of their eight matches.

France also have 14 and like Spain are guaranteed at least a place in the playoffs, but have played one more match than their southern neighbours and their final game is at home to Finland on October 15.

Arriving at Spain's training camp in Las Rozas outside Madrid on Tuesday, centre back Sergio Ramos said he expected a cautious strategy from the Belarussians, who are bottom of the group with four points from seven matches.

"We know Belarus, they close ranks well at the back but they can also surprise you," Ramos told reporters.

"What we must not lose is our excitement, our commitment and our philosophy," added the Real Madrid captain.

Whether Michu can fit into Spain's possession-based playing style remains to be seen.

He said in a recent interview he feels at home in England, where, he noted, the pace of games is more frenetic, players have more space and there are more scoring chances.

"What's more, I like football where teams don't hold on to the ball too much," he added. "Better one touch than two. Sprints, attacks, a crazy rhythm."

If he does get playing time over the next week for Spain, who grind opponents down with their relentless control of the ball, he may have adjustments to make. (Editing by Ed Osmond)

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