La Roja & La Rojita in action tonight!
Two games to watch tonight: Spain vs. Italy in a friendly at 20:45h, and La Rojita vs. South Korea in the U-20 World Cup round of 16 at 0h Spanish time. Here’s how the two teams have been preparing for the games.
First we eat (croissants, no doubt), then we work it off. Javi (!!!) – the three exclamation marks are restored because he’s out of those jeans and into the unamadridista-approved La Roja wear – works it off so well, doesn’t he?
Aug. 8: Madrid/Manizales
The players called up by VDB for Wednesday’s friendly against Italy started arriving in Las Rozas around 10:45h, or 15 minutes before the deadline. The first one to show up was David Villa, followed by Andoni Iraola. The Madrid contingent was next, and that from Barcelona, with the exception of Villa and Iniesta (who had attended a trading card event earlier in the day in the Las Rozas district) arrived shortly before noon. As usual, the newest players spoke to the press, with Nacho Monreal telling then that he found out he was called up when Málaga’s delegate called him at home to tell him the good news. Álvaro Negredo explained that he’s in pain, but his injury will not prevent him from playing, and that one always has to take advantage of these opportunities, and not let them escape. Thiago, who received his first call-up, said that “coming here is a reward. I’m very happy and excited.”
In terms of fashion, the negatives: Álvaro Negredo and Pedro’s cuffed denim shorts, Iniesta and Monreal’s shirts, David Villa’s plaid shorts with a brown belt (he’s in the background of the photo below), and Thiago not making a great start in my opinion, as he was in an A&F polo (as was Busquets – souvenirs from their recent trip to the U.S.?). I disliked Sergio’s outfit, which consisted of a black t-shirt under a black, button down short-sleeved collared shirt, a Gucci belt with a huge logo buckle and jeans. The only positive thing were his aviators. Also on the bad side was PF Juan Mata’s beard – it doesn’t suit him because he has such an adorable baby face. And of course, Javi (!!) in those jeans – you think he’d ever wear them with the suspenders?
On the plus side, VV looked great in a white t-shirt with nothing on it and plain, unadorned jeans, I did like Fernando Llorente in his plaid shirt and shorts (from the ankles up, because his socks were too high, and his shirt would be better without the writing on the back), I saw my old favorite Pepe Reina’s “Pepe” bag and Fernando Torres looked much better than he had at previous starts to the concentraciones. The most positive note has to be that Iker seems to have replaced that purse with a backpack (as he had done in the pre-season with his club as well), though he still had one of his mini purses in his hand. Baby steps, right?
Meanwhile, Xavi and Sergio were checked out by doctors, deemed unfit to play and subsequently excused from the concentración, as they have a right calf injury and back problems, respectively. Sergio left the Ciudad de Fútbol (but not before greeting some of his teammates), but Xavi stayed for the next event, the awards from Marca, and lunch with his teammates. Álvaro Negredo had also been checked out for problems with his iliacus muscle, but was given the green light.
At 12:30h, the team, having changed into their La Roja wear, headed to the Salón Luis Aragonés to receive the Marca de Oro award from newspaper Marca. In addition, Andrés Iniesta received their legend award. Iker, Andrés, VDB, Ángel Villar and Marca’s director Óscar Campillo sat at the table of honor, flanked by the Eurocopa and the World Cup.
The press and public were allowed to ask questions. Iker spoke about future challenges, saying, “I have a lot of dreams left to achieve with the national team. I’ve been here for 11 years. Luckily, I’ve achieved what a player always aspires to. But we have a desire to get to another final and hopefully conquer our second Eurocopa.” In response to a similar question about whether he wants to win a second World Cup, Iker replied, “the road is long and tough, it won’t be easy but we hope the team will be in the next World Cup.” Iker also said he does believe Spain is the favorite for the next Eurocopa, that they have to assume that role but not believe it, and stay humble.
VDB was asked about Iker: “it’s clear that I’ve known Iker since he was 10, he’s put a lot of effort in, since these things aren’t coincidences. Casillas has gotten to where he is because he’s done excellent work since he was a kid, with a lot of sacrifice, and at the same time, he’s been supported by an extraordinary family. So my opinion can’t be any other than that he is the best goalkeeper I’ve known.” He also revealed what he said to the team before the World Cup final: “I told them that we were just footballers who were defending our country and that we were living in the most important moment of our careers, which is playing in the final of a World Cup.” As for Raúl, VDB remarked, “we choose players and we don’t rule out anyone. Raúl has been an example and he continues to be one both on and off the field. No one is ruled out.”
Andrés expressed his happiness and gratitude upon receiving the honor, and thanked all his teammates (“I’m the one receiving the award, but without them, I’m no one”). During the Q&A session, he said that he’s happy that Dani Jarque will always be remembered via his gesture, and that he’s seen The Goal “many” times.
Meanwhile, in the audience, Pepe Reina slapped Nacho Monreal on the back of his neck and Fernando Torres tried to mess up David Villa’s hair.
The event ended with each footballer, the coach and the president called up one by one to receive a medal, starting with Pepe Reina and ending with Xabi Alonso (who then spent a moment with Xavi comparing their medals, because the medals were personalized and no one got the right one; Pepe also examined them as you can see above), and taking the traditional foto de familia. The presenters joked about how Thiago hadn’t even played one minute, and had already received an award. What a great start to his international career, no? Seventeen of the 23 world champions were present on Monday, and the six that weren’t will get their medals sent to them. Also part of this award are the other members of the Spanish delegation – directors, coaches, assistants, fisios, doctors, equipment managers, press officers, delegates. Ángel Villar was then presented with the Marca de Oro award, which he handed to the players, with Álvaro Arbeloa taking charge of it in the name of the entire team.
“Reporter” Cristina Pedroche (you may know her from the now-canceled SLQH) is now on Antena 3’s “Otra Movida,” reporting in her own particular style, which appears to be bugging people until she gets what she wants. In this video, she tries to get all the footballers to give a shout out to her new program and to sign a poster. Unsurprisingly, most of them ignore her, and those that don’t aren’t very enthusiastic (I particularly love Iker’s monotone). However, one footballer saves the day for Cristina by actually stopping to talk to her, and by promising (she made him) to help her get the poster back with everyone’s autograph: Javi Martínez (!!!). This either shows that he’s a super nice guy and/or he actually does think she’s a great reporter. If it’s the latter, then I have to question his taste in television because I can’t stand her style of reporting. And possibly remove an exclamation mark. Most likely though, it’s probably because Javi (!!!) thinks Cristina’s cute (he does follow her on twitter, after all).
Note: it’s a 12-minute long video, but there’s only about two minutes worth watching (i.e. footage of the national team and not crap of the the presenters acting like idiots). Javi (!!!) comes in after the nine-minute mark.
There was a short cocktail “hour” after the act, where Piqué drank water, Cazorla complained about not having Capdevila next to him in the locker room anymore (club wise) and Javi (!!!) smiled a lot while praising his new club coach. After lunch, siesta and free time, the training session was held. The start was delayed about an hour, from 19h to 20h, due to the heat. The players did their usual jogging, exercises, rondos and disputed a partidillo. All eyes were of course on the only player out there to not yet have debuted, Thiago (whose club and U-21 teammates PF JM and JM (!!!) kept an eye on him), though the most acclaimed were the habitual Iker, David Villa and Ineista. Álvaro Negredo trained normally, despite the deep bruise to his iliacus muscle. And of course, the A-team was spotted together.
I love Basque men!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! And of course, men with Basque names.
Over in Colombia, the U-20 team had another fun excursion, when they went to visit the national federation of coffee producers at the Recinto del Pensamiento in Manizales. There, they got to participate in a coffee tasting (it’s hilarious watching them drink coffee using spoons) and take another ride on a gondola, which allowed them to see the flora and fauna of the forest, though most of the players seemed more interested in taking pictures of each other. And seriously, could Sergio Canales look any younger? There are some guys on the team that look much older than their early 20s, but Sergio looks like he’s 15!
There was also a training session. The video below shows that the U-20 team is every bit as much of a piña as the U-19, U-21 and senior teams. I love how much they teased their coach Julen Lopetegui first in the rondos and then with the manteo!
Aug. 9: Bari/Manizales
Spain left Madrid at 10:30h in the morning for Bari, Italy. Thiago sat with PF Juan Mata, his U-21 teammate on the plane…
… and Iker took this picture of the “great Raulito” who is “such a character.” Later on, he posted a picture of him and David Villa, and tried out his Italian skills (probably with the help of Google Translate, again) by saying good night in the local language. And today, we got this picture of him and Pepe Reina, “who wears a wig once in a while.”
After arriving around 12:35h, they headed to their hotel, the Hotel Sheraton Nicolaus. Iker and Thiago – the players with the most and least number of caps, 121 to 0 respectively – spoke to the press before the team had lunch. Iker said the game would be a good one, as the last two world champions are going to be facing each other. When asked about Sergio Ramos and Xavi’s last minute bajas, el capi defended them: “any player that comes to the national team is happy to belong to a team that is the champion of Europe and of the world. They’re happy to be here, but we’re at the beginning of the season, there are players that have pains and risking themselves at this moment is crazy. If this were a life and death game, I’m sure they would be here. In the case of Sergio, I can say that if he’s not here, it’s because he has an injury. The best thing, in this case, is to stay, to recover and to be able to start the season in the best way possible.”
Meanwhile, Thiago spoke about joining the senior team: “it’s an honor to be here. An enormous pleasure. I’m enjoying myself both on and off the field in this experience.” He was asked about whether he might play for Italy, as he also has Italian citizenship from being born in the country: “I never thought of that. The option of Brazil was always there for my family roots, but I’ve lived in Spain since I was three and that’s where I developed. In Spain, I learned everything and I owe them everything.” As for future convocatorias: “it would be crazy… not to come to the next one. If I weren’t going to, I would have declined to come to this one. I want to be in all the call-ups in which the míster counts on me.” It looks like his future with Spain is set! Thiago also said his objective now “is to simply be part of this team. I have no role to play, I just have to adapt to what the coach asks of me.”
Meanwhile, Víctor Valdés shared a picture of his meal. Looks good, doesn’t it?
In the afternoon, the team trained for an hour in the Stadio San Nicola de Bari, where tonight’s game will be held. Before the session started, some former teammates got together to hug and chat as the Italian national team had just finished their practice: Santi Cazorla and Giuseppe Rossi; Antonio Cassano, Álvaro Arbeloa and Iker Casillas; Fernando Torres and Demetrio Albertini [one of my favorite things is when footballers stay friends despite changing teams].
Once the session started, VDB was seen talking to his three midfield bosses, Xabi Alonso, Sergio Busquets and Javi Martínez (!!!). VDB gave no clues as to who will start (though I think we can guess his defensive line), but he does intend to use up all of the substitution chances in order to distribute as much playing time as possible.
So, so, so adorable!!!!!
The low note came when Nacho Monreal had to leave the training session near the end following a tackle by Fernando Torres, which resulted in a deep bruise to the sciatic nerve of his right leg. (If you recall, VDB only called up five defenders for this game, and Nacho was a replacement for the injured Sergio Ramos.) Dr. Cota explained, “it was a direct blow that caused the leg to lose sensation for several minutes. The bruise was at the head of the fibula. After the first examination, it appears to be nothing more than that, and his participation (in the game) will depend on how he evolves in the next few hours.” If Nacho is unable to play, Sergio Busquets or Javi Martínez (!!!) may be called on to become a temporary defender.
Italy has not beaten Spain over the last 17 years, since the quarterfinals of the 1994 World Cup in the U.S. that ended with a 2-1 Italian victory and a very bloody nose for Luis Enrique. Since then, Spain has won twice (including the last game disputed, the 2008 Euro quarterfinals in which Iker stopped two penalties and ended up in an undershirt while under David Villa) and tied Italy three times. [Memory need refreshing? See here and here.] That was also the point of inflection for Spanish football. Since June 22, 2008, Spain has, in the 46 games played over this period, a record of 41-1-4. I’m sure you all can recite the losses by heart: the United States, Switzerland, Argentina, Portugal. And Fernando Torres also scored his first goal with La Roja against Italy, on April 28, 2004.
Two words: Xabi posing. Or if you prefer one word, boss.
In Colombia, Spain continued to prepare for their round of 16 match-up against South Korea in the World Cup with a training session.
But they also found some time to do things off the field, when they went to visit a children’s hospital to cheer up the young patients and visit with the medical staff. The players handed out dolls, miniature cars and other toys, as well as small RFEF flags. Team captain Marc Bartra spoke for his teammates when he said, “these experiences are worth doing. Sometimes we’re not conscious of what’s happening in the world. Visiting these children, and doing it while wearing the shirt of Spain, you see that they light up when they see you, it’s something to be proud of.”
Meanwhile, AS shared “a day in the life” with defender Jorge Pulido, which allowed us to get a glimpse into what’s going on in Manizales. At 09:45h, the alarm clock rang. Jorge is the first to get up. His roommate, Kiko Femenía, needs more time. “He’s like a son. I have to prepare his clothes for him,” Pulido jokes. Fifteen minutes later, they’re having breakfast with the rest of the team. “I don’t eat too much for breakfast, though perhaps more on game days.” He eats just a bit of fruit, and some toast if it’s game day. Then the routine begins. Some return to their rooms to rest or play Play. “I’m not too into videogames, they bore me a bit. I prefer other things.” For example, reading. He’s had so much free time that it took him only two days to finish the book he brought for the entire trip, Paolo Giordano’s The Solitude of Prime Numbers. So, he uses the time to speak with his sister, his parents and his uncles back home in Castillo de Bayuela (Toledo) via Skype.
At 13:30h, the players have to be in the dining room for lunch. “We eat pasta or salad and meat or fish. It’s always the same, but I don’t mind having the same things. It’s what I like.” It’s one of the captains’ (Sergio Canales) responsibility to ask permission from the coaches for the team to get up once they all finish eating.
The day continues. The siesta is another sacred institution for footballers. Jorge says, “I usually sleep just a bit, not a lot.” When it comes time to prepare for the training session, “I wrap up my left ankle (he has some pain) and I prepare my bag. On the days before the games, I train wearing the boots that I’ll wear for the game.” After the session, the team returns to to hotel. In the free time before dinner, he always tries to convince someone to go with him to the shopping mall next to the hotel: “I love going out and buying things.” The menu is the same for dinner. After dinner, Pedro, one of the fisios, always asks if he wants a massage: “it relaxes me a lot and we also work on the ankle.” Then, the players get together in their rooms, they chat and they become even better friends. “Kiko and I like to watch football. Pacheco, Ezequiel and some others always come to our room to watch the games.” When they get tired, it’s time to sleep. On the days before games, there’s one last thing Puli does: “I pray and I ask for protection from the Virgen de Castillo, the one of my town. I always wear a shirt with her image under my jersey. I also listen to El Canto del Loco’s “La suerte de mi vida” before games, as that brings me luck.”
José Luis García del Pozo, aka Recio, has created a twitter account, after Dani Pacheco did some convincing. Let’s see what photos of Dani he posts… he needs to do something, because Dani continues to tease him via twitter, saying that it might take him a while to learn how to use twitter. Meanwhile, Sergio tweeted to Koke that he has no rival in FIFA Pro, promoting Koke to tweet back, “please, don’t make me laugh. The only rival you have here is me and you know it.” Adorable!
And while all the buzz is surrounding Thiago, a Brazilian-Spanish player who will suit up for Spain, the U-20 also has a player in the same situation. Rodrigo, as we find out in this article, feels “50 percent Brazilian and 50 percent Spanish. Spain has given him everything, though. He loves the country. He feels proud to wear the Spain shirt.” This is according to his mother. According to his grandmother, “Rodrigo’s very proud to be a Brazilian, but he’s fallen in love with playing for Spain. He’s very proud to wear their jersey and in the future would love to represent them at the senior level. I don’t think he’ll play for Brazil.” We also find out that Rodrigo considers Thiago and Rafinha his “primos” (cousins)!
P.S. Pedro will be unveiling his new web site tomorrow, at http://www.pedro17.com.
Posted on August 10, 2011, in la rojita, players, team, training and tagged albiol, arbeloa, canales, cazorla, del bosque, iker, iniesta, javi, llorente, mata, monreal, negredo, pedro, pepe, sergio, thiago, torres, valdés, villa, xabi, xavi. Bookmark the permalink. 11 Comments.