VDB reflects on that thing that happened one year ago
Tomorrow is the one-year anniversary of Spain’s triumph in the World Cup. Vicente del Bosque sat down with AS to take a look back, as well as one into the future, towards the 2012 Eurocopa. He once again shows us that he’s made of pure class and goodness.
We’re one year older, but we’re world champions. One year has passed since South Africa…
It seems like it was yesterday. The time has gone by quickly, but we’ve managed to extend our success. The national team has been impeccable in qualifying for the Eurocopa, and a Spanish team, Barcelona, was the champion of Europe. Another, Real Madrid, deserved to play the final, but it wasn’t to be. The U-21 team is the champion of Europe… Spanish football is enjoying good health, at least in the sporting aspect.
If someone had told you the day we debuted and lost to Switzerland that the end result would be like this, would you have believed it?
It was a tough blow, especially because it was an undeserved loss. This bad result affected all of us, but we didn’t deviate from our path and in the next game, against Honduras, we recovered our confidence.
Was the game against Chile the hardest of the World Cup?
It was a critical moment and there was a lot of tension, but the team rose to the occasion and eliminated a great rival. What stands out for me from that game was that the players refused to be satisfied with a tie, because that would mean that we would have to await the result of the Switzerland-Honduras game. It was something unexpected that left us perplexed.
People in Spain began to believe that we had a shot at being champions the day we beat Portugal. Was that the case for you as well?
That was an important day, because the team played extraordinary defense. One of the best players in the world, Cristiano Ronaldo, played for the rival, and on that day they shut him down. They also controlled the rest of the players, who are great. That was the day that Fernando Llorente entered and helped us to win the game. He made life difficult for the defenders, he fought and he sparked the team.
Was the World Cup won thanks to the penalty that Iker stopped against Paraguay?
The World Cup belongs to everyone. That was a determining play, just like Iker’s savior of a foot against Robben, Puyol’s golazo against Germany and of course Iniesta’s goal in the final. But there were many small details that helped us to become champions, in which everyone participated, including those who didn’t play one single minute during the entire tournament. I remember Casillas thanking Reina after stopping the penalty against Paraguay because he had told him how Cardozo would shoot. We won the World Cup due to these small details, the details that a team needs in order to function and be united, both on and off the field.
Was Puyol’s goal a consequence of a practiced play by Barça?
In the days before the semifinal, we practiced strategic plays and yes, Xavi spoke to me about one that the Barça players had memorized. That was the play that led to Puyol’s goal. It was a golazo. The national team should take advantage of the work done in the clubs, and this is the example. I also remember from the game against Germany that 10 minutes before the game, Toni Grande told me that the Germans seemed afraid, when normally it’s Spain that has a complex. Our ideas had caught on. I think that Pedro’s work that day was important, since he didn’t allow Lahm to shine. The team was fantastic.
What was the first thing that came to your mind after Iniesta’s goal in the final?
First, I thought that it could be called offside. Then I remembered Bilic, the Croatia coach, and Terim, from Turkey, in the game between their teams in the 2008 Eurocopa. In that game, Turkey tied in the last minute and then the game went into penalties. Croatia lost a game that they had almost won, due to that last minute. That’s why I asked the players to keep cool and to stay in control in what was left of the overtime. I spoke with them and I asked them to play with control, to not get overly confident in the last few minutes of the game. In football, anything is possible in one instant; we’ve seen that many times.
Did you think the Netherlands would be so aggressive in the final?
That’s not how I want to remember the Netherlands. I prefer to view them as a team that has played in three World Cup finals and which has created a style of football. There were three or four ugly incidents, but they deserved to be in the final. You know what? Some months after the final, Van Marwijk, the Dutch coach, came to Madrid. He called me and he congratulated me again. He showed great sportsmanship. The Netherlands will be one of Spain’s toughest rivals in the Eurocopa, like Germany, Italy, Portugal or England. They’re sleeping giants, but they’ll wake up and when they do, it will be to compete and to win.
But Spain is the champion of Europe and of the world. We have a star on our chest. Are we the favorites in the 2012 Euro?
Well, we can be optimists and say that this time we’re in the group of favorites. But I’ve already talked about what we’re going to face. Wearing the star is great, but it’s also a responsibility and an extra motivation for the rivals.
Will the Euro team be based on the World Cup team or will there be changes?
There will only be changes on the national team when it’s guaranteed that whoever comes can improve on what is there. For the World Cup, it was difficult to leave some names off of the list of 23 players, especially those who had helped a lot during the qualifying phase, such as Senna and others. But the job of the coach is to decide on the lists with his head, not with his heart. After leaving Senna out, the rest was not so tough. But there won’t be a revolution, there will be normal changes, and a renovation that will be done with naturalness and in a precise moment. I could be right or wrong, but I will be just.
Does the U-21 team provide good alternatives?
Of course. They just won their Euro. But it’s not only the U-21 team, there’s still one season before the 2012 Euro and we’ll be watching all the players.
So we should expect some new incorporations?
Spanish football is enjoying an excellent moment. Our clubs are dominant in Europe. Spain has three porterazos, Iker, Reina and Valdés, but then there’s De Gea, another phenomenon, Diego López, and others. In the center of the field, we have the world champions, including Javi Martínez, but Thiago and Ander Herrera also played well with the U-21 team. Up front, it’s the same. In addition to the world champions, we have Negredo, Soldado, Muniain on the wing… There’s a hierarchy, that of the Eurocopa and the World Cup, but there’s also a lot of competition. The champions know they can’t relax, that they have to continue working hard.
Meanwhile, Toni Grande also spoke to AS.
The assistant coach said, “the reception that the entire country and the city of Madrid particularly gave us was unforgettable. We all had goosebumps. It’s the greatest thing we’ve experienced and it’s an enormous source of pride for people like us, who started out training on dirt fields. The key moment of the World Cup was the game against Portugal. It was the first elimination game, and we started believing that winning the World Cup was possible after we won this game. No one said it out loud, no one showed any signs of euphoria, but that day, we all thought about getting to the final in Johannesburg.” Toni added, “the national team will continue to make us very happy, because it’s a piña.”