all set for Chile!
Spain takes on Chile tonight at 20:45h in Switzerland, and if they win (remember, this is a friendly), it will be the best birthday present for Javi Martínez (!!!), who turned 23 today!!! ¡¡¡Felicidades Javi!!!
As for the rest of us, we get a present too – Fernando Llorente on twitter! So far, he’s following Xabi, Cesc and Javi (!!!),
but not Álvaro Arbeloa, who alerted us to Fer’s presence. and now he’s also following Piqué, Puyol, Cesc, PF Juan Mata, Ander, Iniesta and Álvaro Arbeloa (and his good friend Rafa Nadal).
Anyway, Spain arrived in Saint Gallen after a two-hour long flight from Madrid to Zürich and an hour long bus ride from Zürich to their final destination. Once in Saint Gallen, Sergio Busquets, Sergio Ramos and PF Juan Mata spoke to the press. That was followed by a training session, and another press conference, where VDB and Xavi shared their thoughts.
Xabi Alonso even gets his phone out of his pocket with a lot of class! And it’s great to see the boys enjoying themselves!
The training session
Spain held their second preparatory training session ahead of tonight’s game against Chile yesterday at the AFG Arena, where there was only one negative note, that of Fernando Llorente receiving a blow to his left ankle during a mini-game. He ended up applying ice to the area, but should be fine for tonight’s game. The team trained for less than one hour, practicing tactics, disputing a mini-game and finishing with a shooting exercise. Throughout the session, the players joked around with each other, showing that they do get along.
It’s almost like two Snow Whites and four enanos…
The press conferences
At the team hotel, the Säntispark, Sergio Ramos, PF Juan Mata and Sergio Busquets answered questions from the media. Of course, the journalists wanted to know if the players get along.
Busquets said, “it’s normal that there are piques. But we all want the best, and being together creates a good atmosphere. It’s better to focus on the good things to enjoy the moment and continue like always. There’s a good atmosphere, there were things but there’s a good atmosphere. We’re all adults. It’s clear that each one defends his own interests, but here, we’re all the same team and we want the best for the national team.”
Sergio also gave his two cents when asked about the team meeting with VDB on Wednesday: “we didn’t do anything out of the ordinary. We arrived at the concentración early and he met with his players. He knows that we’re all young and great guys. It would be a big mistake to let this opportunity to make history go by. It’s worrying that things are said about us when the spirit is as good as it always has been.”
Mata, the neutral party much like the country they’re in, said, “in the end, when we come and spend time together, the clubs aren’t important. We all represent our country and we have the same goal. We’re all conscious that this good atmosphere is what made Spain the world champion, and that’s the direction we should go in.”
In the evening, VDB and Xavi also spoke to the press. Of course, what everyone wanted to know from Xavi was whether he and Iker are currently getting along. Xavi told the press that there is no rift between him and Iker: “he’s a great teammate and a great guy. He’s always happy and I feel very content that he’s our captain. He’s the same as he’s always been. As for the problems, we have to speak about them. I’ve been speaking with Iker and things are good, everything has been fixed. We speak about these things, like we have done in all the concentraciones. That’s all behind us now so that the national team can continue in good health. And the coach is there to make sure that we end up in a safe port. There hasn’t been a “problemón” (a big problem) due to the clásicos. We’re people who like football and we want for there to be a good atmosphere. More has been said about this than a Spain that just won the World Cup and the Eurocopa and which is enjoying the best moment in its history.”
Xavi also revealed that Iker had called him, “just like he’s called me in other times to congratulate us. We’ve exchanged messages, which is normal for a relationship that has endured since 1997.” He added, “we’re a very good group of people that have been together for many years and we want the best for Spanish football…we all work for the good of Spanish football.”
Looking ahead to the game: it seems that no one really cares about this game (or the next one against Liechtenstein, traditionally not a powerhouse) because all the attention is focused on whether the Madrid and Barcelona players on the national team get along. As you can see, the journalists covering the team are only interested in this topic, and the majority of questions focus on this issue. It doesn’t matter that the players have said time and time again that there is a good atmosphere – like Pepe said, no one wants to believe that (or else the media are hoping someone will mess up – the bet would be on Sergio, no?). Well, I will believe that, in part because I don’t want to contemplate the alternative, and because I believe they’re all old enough to get over this and the bonds they’ve forged in the past and the experiences they’ve shared are strong enough to overcome everything.
Anyway, back to Chile. It’s a friendly game, which means that Spain has a good chance of messing things up. Hopefully though, they’ll be able to extend their winning streak against the other La Roja – Spain has never lost to Chile, notching a record of seven wins and one tie in the eight times they’ve faced each other throughout the last 60 years. The last time they matched up was of course in the 2010 World Cup, when Spain defeated Chile 2-1 in their last group stage game on their way to winning it all. That was also Javitxu’s (!!!) only game at the World Cup, and coincidentally, Chile’s coach back then is his coach at Athletic now, Marcelo Bielsa!
Xavi also has the opportunity to move into a tie for third place on the all time number of games played with Spain list, as he’s expected to play in his 102nd game tonight, tying Raúl. In all categories, Xavi has played in 158 games, with only one person ahead of him: Iker with 163.
In other news…
Iker posted this photo of himself at the AFG Arena. I wonder why he’s leaning?
Fernando Llorente “found” this picture from Pepe Reina’s birthday dinner the other night, and we are all grateful that he decided to share it, no? Fer looks great in blue, and David Villa does look a bit unfamiliar without the hair gel. Also at the dinner was talk show host Pablo Motos, but we already knew that he and Pepe are good friends.
Álvaro Arbeloa was the one tasked with telling us that Fernando Llorente has started tweeting – I wonder if Álvaro influenced him and helped him to set up the account? If so, why hasn’t Raúl Albiol started tweeting yet? Or is he doing so secretly?
By the way, Fernando’s first ever tweet says, “hi everyone! I’m Fernando Llorente! This is my twitter! Happy to be with all of you! A hug from Switzerland!” He and I have something in common – we both love those exclamation marks!!
Back in Barcelona, Gerard Piqué, who is enjoying a mini-vacation due to an injury, cleaned up at the poker table during the PokerStars event, where he ended up third in the final round of one of the side tournaments, taking home around €40,000. Piqué was semi-disguised, in a hat, sunglasses and earphones. The people at the casino said that he barely spoke during the entire seven hours he was there, only talking when it was related to the game he was playing. There’s also a little video here.
Over in Georgia, the U-21 team showed that the future is very, very secure after beating Georgia 7-2 in their first 2013 U-21 Euro qualifier. Rodrigo scored a hat trick, Isco a doblete and Sergio Canales and Marc Bartra also got their names on the scoreboard. Spain actually scored an eighth goal, because one of Georgia’s goals was an own goal by Spain. And if that wasn’t enough, La Rojita scored six of the goals before the half! It looks like Iker Muniain may have found someone to replace Thiago – he and Rodrigo celebrated one of the goals with their own little dance, though I expect a more elaborate one should one of them score in Lugo, since they’ll have more time to plan and practice.
Isco’s first goal of the night (Spain’s third) was probably the most gorgeous one from the game. He received a long pass from Sergio Canales, and finished with a vaselina. But I also have to mention the own goal, the work of Iñigo Martínez, which was also a beauty, despite being an own goal. After the rival goalkeeper sent a goal kick down the field, Iñigo, with his back to his own goal, sent the ball backwards in a high arc using his heel, surprising David de Gea. That’s right, he scored un gol de tacón, de vaselina, from 30 meters out. Spain is so good that even their own goals are highlight worthy!
Seven players made their debuts with the U-21 team in this game: Jordi Amat, Hugo Mallo, Carles Planas, Iñigo Martínez, Isco, Oriol Romeu and Rodrigo. The only negative note of the night was the injury to Jordi Amat right before the half, a bruise to his calf muscle (he has since tweeted that he’s feeling better). The team has already arrived back to Spain, and is preparing for the next game in Lugo. They are also playing some parchís – Hugo Mallo and Carles Planas vs. Iker Muniain and Sergio Canales. And as you know, I absolutely adore these boys, but this is one of the most tragic photos (along with any of Javi (!!!) wearing a shirt) that I’ve seen lately. For those that need help, these are, counter clockwise from the front and center, Sergi Roberto, Álvaro Vázquez (who tweeted the photo), Dani Pacheco, Carles Planas,
the fourth Albiol brother Jordi Amat and Oriol Romeu. And check out David de Gea and Recio in the background!