all set for Liechtenstein!
Spain plays Liechtenstein tonight at Las Gaunas, Logroño (22h) and could clinch a place in next year’s Eurocopa with a win. Yesterday, the team traveled to Logroño, tweeting along the way. Once in the capital of La Rioja, Álvaro Arbeloa, Fernando Llorente (the native son and the focus of most of the attention on Monday) and Vicente del Bosque spoke to the press, and the team held a training session attended by 13,000 people, or almost a tenth of the population of the city! Meanwhile, the U-21 team defeated Georgia to go two for two in their quest to qualify to defend their Euro crown. All that, plus interviews and other random things in this post!
Javi (!!!) made my wish come true by tweeting a picture of him on the bus with “it boy, the great Cesc.” Meanwhile, Gerard Piqué had to add his two céntimos from Barcelona, tweeting “listening to the radio on the way to training. They recommended that Cesc cut his hair… they called him the Camarón of Arenys!! Jajaja!” For those of you who don’t get the reference, google “Camarón de la Isla.”
Later on, Álvaro Arbeloa tweeted a picture of Pepe speaking on his mobile phone (complete with retro receiver in purple); I love how the receiver and the lines on Pepe’s shirt managed to match! And Sergio gave us this photo with Xabi Alonso. I can’t believe my eyes. Sergio’s hand is front and center, and his thumb is not sticking up? Obviously, he hadn’t finished preparing his pose before whoever took the photo snapped it.
I like how both Sergio and Javi (!!!) are grinning widely, but Cesc and Xabi have more resigned looks on their faces and half smiles, like they can’t believe they had been asked to pose.
Madrid to Logroño
Spain arrived in Logroño on Monday morning, and fans were waiting for them at both the airport and their hotel, the Hotel Husa, with cameras, pens and posters. The first person to come out of the terminal of Agoncillo was Xabi Alonso, who stopped to sign a couple of autographs. He was followed by the other players, all of whom walked the short distance to the bus until there was only one player who hadn’t made an appearance yet. By this time, the crowd was chanting “Llorente, Llorente” and at last their paisano came out, receiving the biggest cheer of the day.
The press conferences
Álvaro Arbeloa and Fernando Llorente spoke to the press. Highlights:
Fernando on playing in La Rioja: I’ve been waiting a long time for this moment, it’s an honor to return to my land, to La Rioja. I’m very surprised by the incredible reception we received in the airport and the hotel. We’re very grateful for the affection that was shown to us. I would like to start the game, it will be special for me, but the míster will make the decision and I’m prepared for everything. I’ll try to help the team however I can and enjoy playing in Logroño. We have to play a good game so everyone can enjoy it.
Arbeloa on the fight in the Chile game: they’re things that happen in a football game and we have to try and avoid them, but it’s an isolated incident that happened, which no one liked and that’s it.
Arbeloa on the press talking about the end of a cycle (for the team): I don’t know. I imagine that there are some who want things to go badly for us, but this team has young people so how can it be the end of a cycle. We’re used to seeing how things are twisted when there is criticism, we know how to live wit it, we’re lucky to have a great group and one, as I said, with many young people.
Alvarito did not sound or look happy at all to be there!
In his press conference, VDB revealed that he had warned his players that Liechtenstein “could be a technically inferior team, but now all the teams we play are very motivated. In addition, they’re a very organized team that already caused a lot of difficulty for Lithuania.” Regarding the tangana at the end of the Chile game, el míster said, “the final spectacle that we gave at the end was not gratifying. I understand the frustration of Chile, although I’m conscious that we were also at fault.” He also wanted to make clear that the chat before yesterday’s training session is normal: “for my principles, I almost never criticize my players in public [I love this man!], the other day I said there was a lack of a defensive attitude, nothing more.”
As for playing in La Rioja, Vicente said, “the reception is wonderful. The president wants us to play in all the provinces and we’re happy to do so.” It was of course inevitable that the local journalists wanted to know if Fernando Llorente would start, to which VDB responded, “Fernando is one more on the team and we will choose the best for each occasion.” Diplomatic and discrete as always.
The training session
In the afternoon, Spain trained at Las Gaunas in front of 13,000 people, or only about 4,000 less than the number that will be watching them play tonight against Liechtenstein. The boys arrived early, and caught the end of Liechtenstein’s training session. What I would give to be sitting on Xabi’s lap, with Javi (!!!) on my right and Fernando on my left… the perfect Basque sandwich! Iker would also be within reach, as he was sitting to Javi’s (!!!) right.
When it was there time to train, the fans got to enjoy two partidillos and cheer on Iker’s saves, Iniesta’s passes and Villa’s shots (actually, anything the boys did elicited screams, from running to walking to the sideline). However, the biggest cheers were once again reserved for Fernando Llorente, who received a continuous wave of support and encouragement during the session.
The session didn’t give any clues as to who would be the starting forward – which Fernando – tonight, though it appears certain that Busquets will fill in for Javi Martínez (!!!) in the defense. If Javi (!!!) ends up playing, he’ll be in his more natural position of midfielder.
Again, I am reminded that I studied the wrong thing in school. And how cute is this picture of Sergio and Fernando hugging? They were also wearing matching headbands.
Fernando Llorente was obviously the most sought after man yesterday, and COPE got him to speak to their “El Partido de las 12” program. In it, Fernando talked about reception at the airport, saying it was very emotional to see so many people there, shouting your name. He explained that he couldn’t stop to sign more autographs because the rest of the team was waiting for him. Fer and the presenters also joked about visiting the bodegas that La Rioja is so famous for, as well as the pears that Rincón de Soto, Fernando’s hometown, is famous for. Floris explains that the pears are great and very rich, that they have “DO” (Denominación de Origen, or Designation of Origin) and that even his father has two fields of pears, which he used to pick. He also says he would be happy for the RFEF to renew VDB’s contract, since it was VDB who had confidence in him, gave him his debut and changed his life. Have a listen here.
He also spoke with RNE’s “Radiogaceta de los Deportes” (listen here), where he refuted Álvaro Arbeloa’s statement that “I imagine that there are some who want things to go badly for us,” saying that “Arbeloa made a mistake, he probably had a bad day. They were asking him complicated questions about the fight and in the end that’s how one responds.” Fer also defended Javi Martínez (!!!), who received some criticism for his game against Chile: “the fault of the defensive problems wasn’t with those in the defense, it was the fault of everyone. A team starts defending well from the top. I don’t know what failed apart from Chile pressuring us well.” And I loved his statement that “I would renew (Vicente del Bosque) for life as the national team coach.” He also admitted that he got goosebumps from the reception he received in his home province, saying that he had never experienced anything like that before.
It looks like TVE will also be airing an interview with Javi (!!!) and Fernando, as Silvia Barba was interviewing the adorable duo after the training session! Can’t wait to see it!
Meanwhile, Xavi spoke with TVE. Highlights below; watch the video here.
on 103 games with the national team: it’s an honor, a privilege to still be here, surpassing a legend like Raúl, a reference in Spanish and world football for all of us, it’s fantastic. I hope to continue for many years, I feel fine physically, and happy to live during this brilliant age of Spanish football. If the míster continues counting on me, and I have an important role, great.
on his commitment to La Roja: many people have doubts, I always try to come, I like to come, I feel passion for football, I always want to be on the field playing. But I had injuries to my Achilles tendons, to my calves, so we were doing preventative treatment, the míster knew that, the teammates knew that, and they’re the ones you’re committed to. You can’t control what everyone else says.
on Iker: with Iker, I speak a lot, not just now. We’ve spoken our entire lives, we’ve had a relationship since we were 15, on the U-17 team, and our friendship is above everything else.
In other news, the RFEF is negotiating to play a friendly in Johannesburg against South Africa on Nov. 15. That day as well as Nov. 11 are reserved for the 2012 Euro qualifier playoffs, and since Spain hopefully will not find themselves in that situation, they’re looking to schedule two friendlies. The other could be in China against Camacho’s China, or in London against Brazil (this was the game originally scheduled to be played on Sept. 2, and after Brazil canceled it, Chile was scheduled). Spain also has a game against England scheduled for February in Wembley.
Over in Lugo, Sergio Canales scored twice, the first of which was a penalty (provoked by Iker Muniain) and the second of which was a golazo, as Spain beat Georgia 2-0 in their second 2013 Euro qualifier as they seek to defend their title. La Rojita dominated the game from the beginning, and Sergio C. attributed their stellar play to the fact that “we know each other very well, almost all of us have played together before and you can see on the field the complicity that we have.” He went on to explain that the team achieved its objective of getting six points from the two games. Their next qualifier is on Oct. 6 against Croatia.
In the world of twitter, Dani Pacheco tweeted that “David de Gea, the future goalkeeper of the senior team, asked me for help with some translations to English.. Jiji. Come on David!!” And I’m really wondering why Álvaro Arbeloa calls Dani “melon”? No one mentioned above is in this picture below, but it’s so adorable I had to include it.
Meanwhile, Iker and Thiago had a little discussion, also via twitter, on how much they miss each other. Thiago kicked things off with this tweet: “we wish the U-21 team luck in the second game against Georgia! Iker, magic, don’t try and fool anyone, you don’t know how to play parchís.” Iker responded, “jajaja, o’rei alcantara!!! You do know how to play parchís, what you don’t know how to play is football… although today I’ll miss youuuuu.” That tweet got this response from Thiago: “how I miss our dances, little one! What is a goal without our dancing?” Iker tweeted back, “ooohhh papaaa, a goal without a good dance is not a goal!” (he also added a couple of sad faces and a heart). That prompted Thiago to write, “today you’re going to save two goals for me in Lugo! A lot of luck, brother.” The exchange ended with Iker’s tweet, “thank you very much, brother, a kiss!”
Can Thiago debut tonight, and then be immediately sent back to the U-21 team for a reunification with Iker (he’s still eligible)? It’s clear that these two should not be separated, ever!!