La Rojita – champions of Europe!
La Rojita conquered Europe on Saturday night to add the U-21 Euro to Spain’s list of sporting achievements! Ander Herrera and Thiago scored (beautiful goal by Thiago, no?) as Spain beat Switzerland 2-0. No country has ever been the reigning world, European and U-21 Euro champions at the same time. We’re making history!
(I’ll try and do an ICYMI post if I have time, complete with gifs, because there were so many great moments, including that hug between Thiago and Iker (they need a one-word nickname, no?), but in the meantime, enjoy this picture post.)
Three key moments from Saturday night: the celebration for Thiago’s goal, which ended in a manpile; the piña when the final whistle blew; and the obligatory foto de familia.
Some more pictures from the celebration. I love how Thiago, Dani and Rubén Pérez went into the stands to celebrate with the fans.
During the celebrations, Azpi shouted, “I spent six months injured to get here and be the champion!” while Thiago said, “Spain deserves this Cup, what years, Spain, what years!” Meanwhile, Javi (!!!) described it – or didn’t – as “it’s indescribable, it’s like being a father” (how would he know???). Martín Montoya dedicated the win to “my mother, who’s in heaven,” while Iker just shouted “we’re the best in Europe! It’s about time!” Ander spent time looking for his mother and sister in the stands, Rubén Pérez was the bull to Diego Capel’s torero, the Asturians posed together, as did the porteros, Azpi brought the Cup into the stands for Manolo el del Bombo. The team also did the “¡Camarero! ¿Qué? ¡Una de champiñones! Champiñones, champiñoes oé, oé, oé….” Watch all that and more here.
Adrián received the Golden Boot award for scoring the most number of goals during the tournament, five, and Juan Mata received the Bronze Boot award for his two goals, as well as the trophy for being the top assist giver. Thiago received his second game MVP award. Adrián was also chosen as the best player of the tournament, putting him in select company: previous winners have been Figo and Fabio Cannavaro.
Fernando Hierro ended his time at the RFEF on a very high note. During the almost four years he spent as sporting director of the RFEF (September 2007 to June 2011), he won a Eurocopa, a World Cup, this U-21 Euro and two U-17 Euros, as well as 2012 Olympic Games qualification. Luis Milla dedicated this win to him, saying, “he’s been very important, a great professional, a great co-worker. All the coaches that are here because of him are very happy. This is dedicated to him.”
After the game, Luis Milla talked about Thiago’s goal: “the goal showed the talent of this footballer, his confidence, and is the perfect closing note for this tournament.” He also talked about the group: “there were important footballers that scored goals, others that didn’t play a lot or didn’t play at all, but all have been fundamental for this team to function as it did.” In an interview later, he said of two of his three captains, “they had so much influence on the group. They were an example of how to behave both on and off the field, leadership from humility. We’re speaking about two world champions, no less. And they both had a fantastic tournament. It’s been a pleasure to work with them. The entire group was infected by their example.”
As captain, Javi (!!!) of course got to receive the trophy, and he and Juanín later posed with it. Hopefully, there will be many more to come.
Tweets: Javi (!!!) expressed how proud he was of his teammates and the entire delegation; Xabi Alonso wished them luck before the game; Cesc congratulated them, as did Gerard Piqué and Fernando Llorente; and Borja Valero said he didn’t know why this team was called La Rojita, when they could absolutely compete with a lot of the senior teams, and declared himself a total fan of Thiago.
Some pictures from the locker room…
Why did only two of the boys remove their shirts? Why? At least they had the good sense to pose front and center…
On the way out of the locker room, Iker Muniain shouted, “we’re going to have such a party on the plane that it’s going to fall!” And so they did (except for the falling part, luckily). On the airplane ride back to Spain, Iker took on the role that Pepe Reina has on the senior team. He was the ringleader during the celebrations on flight IB 2805. It was 03:30h, and the plane was somewhere between Germany and France. Iker picked up a can of Coke, used that as an impromptu microphone, and began his show: “silence, I want you all to hear me. I don’t know if you know, but… we’re champions of Europe!” That prompted shouts of “¡Sí, sí, sí, la Eurocopa ya está aquí!” He also led a toast, and said, “although I didn’t wear the armband during the tournament, I’m the captain. I want David’s girlfriend to sing,” causing the rest of the players to sing, “sing Edurne, sing!” (in case you didn’t know, David de Gea’s girlfriend Edurne is a singer). Iker explained, “if it were up to me, I would sing, but I don’t have a very good voice.” Under all this pressure, Edurne sang a few lines of “We Are the Champions,” using Iker’s Coke can as the “microphone.” The poor flight attendants had to deal with all this and more, because each time they came down the aisle, our boys had some practical jokes prepared for them. They also had a hard time convincing everyone to sit down when the plane was ready to land.
And we had Iker’s mother Nuria there saying, “Iker is a shy boy.” (By the way, watch a video of Javi’s mother (!!!), Juanín’s dad, Iker’s mother and Thiago’s father speaking about their sons here. Fortu describes her son as “fun and hard-working,” Nuria describes her son as a character, Juan describes his son as quiet… Fortu also talks about a little anecdote where Javi’s (!!!) car keys got wet from the pool and so the car wouldn’t start, while Nuria talks about their dog Kun, whom Iker has trained to bring drinks, and Juan talks about Juanín playing pocha, and Mazinho talks about how his son only fell asleep after watching goals.)
There was also a feeling of déjà vu, because the players played music on an iPad on a speaker – held by Javi (!!!) – and went to the back of the plane to try and wake up the sleeping journalists. The boys played La Roja’s World Cup song, Elvis Crespo’s “Píntame,” but Diego Capel and Martín Montoya also put on music from Andalucía, bachata and reggaeton. Most of the players wore the white shirts that they had played the final in – a lot of them also got their teammates to sign them – but Javi (!!!) was wearing a red shirt, not a jersey. Various of the players also clutched signed game balls.
Watch a video with some of these moments here, as well as Víctor Ruiz messing up the oxygen masks, Thiago and Iker’s hug and dance, posing with the trophy…
Once back in Madrid, it was time to say goodbye, and all the players hugged Fernando Hierro. Iker Muniain came out pulling his suitcase with one hand and juggling a ball (he said, I’ve been doing this since Denmark). Javi (!!!) emerged with just a messenger bag, and a book under his arm (I love him).
I find Dídac really attractive! But not on the !!! level. And Ander is really adorable.
Continuing with the travel, four of the players returned to Navarra via Pamplona (I’m writing about this because I’m sure you can guess who one of the four is). César Azpilicueta and Mikel San José arrived in the morning. In the afternoon, Iker Muniain and Javi Martínez (!!!) arrived at Noáin, where they were greeted by friends and family (their parents came back with them, since they had been in Denmark as well). Javi (!!!) was both happy and tired: “we’re very content, very tired. We arrived at six in the morning and now it’s time to think about vacation and resting.” He also spoke about the moment in which he raised up the Cup: “it was very emotional, and as captain, I represented all my teammates, all the work that we did starting two years ago. In that moment, you think about everything, family, friends…” Iker revealed that he made his first calls after winning to his grandparents and friends, that it’s time for some “deserved vacation and rest” and that he hadn’t thought about going to los Sanfermines, but “we’ll see.” Javi (!!!) should have kept his red shirt on.
Looking ahead: sixteen of the 23 champions are no longer U-21 players. Only David de Gea, Diego Mariño, Rubén Miño (so the goalkeeping position is nicely covered), Martín Montoya, Thiago, Iker Muniain and Bojan will still be eligible. The new generation starts playing on Sept. 1, against Georgia, in Euro 2013 qualifying.
The RFEF may call up Thiago for the senior team, in order to make sure that he plays for Spain in the future, since he has all the requirements necessary to be a senior international, though they won’t pressure him. Thiago has double nationality – Spanish and Brazilian – and so he can choose which senior team he wants to play for. FIFA’s rules say that a player with more than one nationality can change countries if he hasn’t played an official international “A” game. Spain’s next official game is a Euro 2012 qualifier on Sept. 6 in Logroño. They could also consider calling him up for the friendly against Italy on Aug. 10 (VDB will announce the list on Aug. 5), since the game is to be played in Bari, the city where Thiago was born, and so that he can begin adapting to the senior team. The RFEF did the same with Bojan, who debuted against Armenia, after Serbia showed an interest in him. Brazil has expressed interest in Thiago, and with the next World Cup to be held in Brazil, the country would like to field the strongest team possible.
The next tournament coming up is this summer’s U-20 World Cup, which begins on July 29 in Colombia (Spain won’t debut until July 31). The team coached by Julen Lopetegui (an assistant coach to Luis Milla in Denmark) will face Costa Rica, Ecuador and Australia in the round robin phase. Iker Muniain and Martín Montoya may be called up for this tournament. Spain has only won this competition once in its history, in 1999 in Nigeria. Iker Casillas (this is when he was nicknamed el caimán de Kaduna), Xavi and Carlos Marchena were on that team. The U-19 team will also be playing in their Euro from July 16-Aug. 1 in Romania.
Plus, the Cup is already in the RFEF museum, next to its big sister, the 2008 Eurocopa!
And of course, I have to include the obligatory Javi (!!!) pouting photos, which has become a tradition on this blog.