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Soccer-Iniesta to win 100th cap as Spain bow out

Reuters

By Keith Weir

CURITIBA, Brazil, June 22 (Reuters) - Spanish midfielder Andres Iniesta will win his 100th cap against Australia on Monday but the deposed champions will make several changes to ensure as many players as possible get a game at the World Cup.

Barcelona's Iniesta scored the winning goal when Spain beat the Netherlands 1-0 in the 2010 final and has been a key part of a team that had swept all before it in European and world soccer over the past six years.

Fellow World Cup winners Iker Casillas and midfielder Xavi, who is struggling with injury, are likely to miss the Group B game on Monday in what will be a melancholy occasion with nothing but pride at stake.

"We'll try to make sure that everyone who has come to Brazil plays at least once," coach Vicente Del Bosque told a news conference on Sunday.

"We won't forget that tomorrow is Iniesta's 100th game. He will play," he added.

Del Bosque said Pepe Reina would probably start in goal in place of captain Casillas, who has made a number of errors and conceded seven goals in two defeats in Brazil. Fellow goalkeeper David De Gea is injured and will not feature.

Xavi, dropped for the defeat by Chile, is not expected to be fit to make a farewell World Cup appearance.

"I don't think one game more or one game less will have any impact on how his career is viewed," said Del Bosque.

Del Bosque said it was wrong to heap all the blame for Spain's early exit on the older players who have served their country so well in the past.

"Why does everyone attack the veterans now? I don't think it's only the veterans who are to blame," he said.

The coach played down a training-ground dispute he had with midfielder Cesc Fabregas on Saturday after he brought Xabi Alonso into his place in a session.

"Of course I have spoken to Cesc. That was nothing special. It's the sort of thing that can always happen in training."

Del Bosque said the result against the Australians would not influence whether he stays on as Spain coach. The Spanish soccer federation wants him to stay on but he has said he needs time to think about his future.

"They are two very different things. My decision will have nothing to do with tomorrow's result," he said.

(Editing by Ed Osmond)

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