all set for Scotland!
Spain plays Scotland tonight (20:45h, Alicante) in their last Euro 2012 qualifier, though our presence in the tournament was assured several games ago.
Ignore Santi and VV being adorable for a moment, and focus on Sergio and Jordi’s embrace – it wasn’t the first time or the last time on Monday. Notice how Jordi goes for Sergio’s ass first, and pauses for a second? Some people have all the luck…
The press conferences
On Monday afternoon, Jordi Alba, Sergio Ramos and Thiago spoke to the press.
Jordi on his possible debut: I’m feeling the same as always, for me this has been a great reward and if my debut comes, I’ll be happy, and if not, I’ll still be very content with having this opportunity. No matter if I debut or not, I’ll frame my shirt and hang it up in my house along with other important ones.
Sergio on Víctor Valdés: with regards to Víctor, he’s a great goalkeeper and a great teammate on the national team.
Thiago on VV: for me, he’s one of the best goalkeepers that there is, and he brings joy to the team.
Sergio on how he’s feeling: my idea is to train today with the group to see how things are, and if I can participate tomorrow.
Sergio on Fernando Torres: I see him the same as always, in the same mood, you note that he’s formidable, indispensable on his team and on the national team. Obviously, a forward lives on goals but you can’t only measure someone using this. We love him very much as a teammate and it’s always important to have teammates like him on the team.
Sergio on Puyol: his presence on the team is a joy for us and a guarantee, because he’s a key piece both for Spain and for his club. He always brings a lot. For us, it’s always good news that players like him are part of the national team.
There was also this little adorable exchange.
Sergio on whether they’ve hazed Jordi: (laughs) well, we always have things prepared, but…
Sergio: … I think the important thing is the reception, for them to feel as if they’re at home, both Jordi and all the other teammates who come for the first time, they should feel comfortable and have a desire to return. I think he (Jordi) has something in mind, if he wants to tell you all, then he’ll tell you.
Jordi: tell what?
Sergio: nothing, it’s too soon, we have to wait until he has confidence in us, then we’ll see.
Meanwhile, VDB had the following to say:
on Torres: we have to be just because there’s a lot of competition. We brought Torres because he’s doing well at his club. With regards to the Eurocopa, we’ll see if he’s there or not. There won’t be preferential treatment for anyone.
on his goalkeepers: if there’s anything that is an example, it’s the behavior of the three goalkeepers that we have. The great ones are also generous (referring to how thanks to Iker, he can give minutes to another goalkeeper tonight).
on Jordi Alba: the other day, he didn’t suit up for the game because we expected a more defensively complicated game. We hope to count on him tomorrow. He’s a boy who knows how to play football, and he’s not the first case of a converted footballer.
on Puyol: he’s an example of overcoming obstacles. We want him to reach 100 games.
on Albiol’s injury: it’s regretful that he got injured and had to leave us. I didn’t see the action, because I was in the other group, but the injury was absolutely an accident. There was no suspicion or premeditation on our part to hide who injured Albiol. The important thing was to tell everyone that he had been injured, and by a teammate of course, who else would it have been.
The training session
In the late afternoon, the team trained at the Rico Pérez in front of 12,000 fans. Sergio Ramos and Xabi Alonso trained at the same intensity as the rest of their teammates, which is good news for Spain (and Xabi’s leg was no longer bandaged). I love the sprinkler’s sudden appearance and the subsequent backpedaling! And remember what I said earlier about Jordi and Sergio?
During the session, VDB divided his players into two groups of eight. Xavi, Silva, Mata, Piqué, Javi (!!!), Busquets, Arbeloa and Villa wore green vests, while the other team, made up of Llorente, Ramos, Thiago, Torres, Alba, Pedro, Cazorla and Puyol just wore their blue training shirts. Xabi Alonso got to wear a special orange vest, the only one. The goalkeepers were in red.
And while the goalkeepers did their own exercises, the field players disputed a half-field partidillo. At the end of the session, they played another one, this time with goalkeepers, while Iker continued working with Ochoto. Xabi alternated between the teams.
Throughout the session, the crowd favorite was Iker Casillas, with the fans chanting his name repeatedly. VDB and Sergio Ramos also received a lot of support. And no, that’s not me holding the Javi (!!!) sign – it says, “Javi, you make us crazy.” I hope Javi (!!!) saw it – remember how cutely excited he was when he saw one sign for him at the Príncipe de Asturias awards?
The boys once again showed they all get along very well.
I love these David Villa moments…
… and how Jordi, Fer x 2 and David all have the same pose here.
A bit more from Sunday
A couple more pictures, to show you how crazy it was outside the Melía Alicante as fans waited for the arrival of La Roja, and a couple of ingenious fans. On the left, it says, “Torres, I want to be your mother-in-law.” In the middle, “Torres, marry me.” On the left, “Torres, I want to be your sister-in-law.” I have to admit that I have shouted “¡Iker, cásate conmigo!” to Iker on more than one occasion.
Looking ahead to the game
The players will wear black armbands tonight in memory of Chus Pereda.
Today will most likely be the day of Jordi Alba’s debut with the national team, and his loved ones will be there with him tonight. His parents will be at the Rico Pérez, as well his girlfriend Melissa, and his brother David, who had to ask permission from his futsal team L’Hospitalet Bellsport to miss a training session to attend. Jordi will wear the number 6 jersey, which is usually the property of Andrés Iniesta.
A bit of history. The last time Spain played Scotland, a friendly in Valencia on Sept. 3, 2004, the game was not completed, as a power outage and subsequent flooding in the Ciutat de Valencia stadium in the 60th minute ended things prematurely. At that point, the game was 1-1, with Rubén Baraja having scored an own goal and Raúl equalizing it with a penalty. It was also Luis Aragonés’ second game in charge, and Iker’s first one as captain of La Roja, since Raúl was on the bench. The starting line-up, for those of you who want to become a bit nostalgic, was composed of Iker, López Rekarte (in his only appearance for Spain), Marchena (Helguera), Puyol, Del Horno, Xabi, Baraja (Valerón), Joaquín, Reyes, Torres (Raúl) and Tamudo (Vicente). This game is still the shortest one Spain has ever played.
The last time Spain played in Alicante was on March 24, 2001, in a 2002 World Cup qualifier. As I said yesterday, Spain won that game 5-1 behind two goals from Gaizka Mendieta, and one each from Iván Helguera, Fernando Hierro and Rulo. Here are some pictures from that game of several legendary La Roja players: Raúl, el gran capitán Fernando Hierro and Pep Guardiola.
Data from Mr. Chip.
In favor of Spain: Spain and Scotland have faced each other 12 times, with five wins for Spain, three for Scotland and four ties. In games played on Spanish soil, Spain has three wins, one loss and three ties.
A Spanish record: Spain has a 22-game winning streak as the home team, the best in the history of La Roja. Their last defeat at home was against Romania on Nov. 15, 2006 (0-1) in Cádiz.
A world record?: Spain has won 13 consecutive official games (the last loss was to Switzerland in the World Cup), the third longest streak in national team football. France and the Netherlands share the world record of 14.
Torres, the youngest to reach 90: if Torres plays, he’ll become the youngest player to reach 90 games, at the age of 27 years and 205 days, beating Iker (27 years and 312 days). In addition, Torres will move past Fernando Hierro on the all time games played list.
Seventeen years: the last time a Barcelona goalkeeper started an official game with Spain was 17 years ago, on July 9, 1994. That goalkeeper was Zubizarreta.
Only friendlies: Víctor Valdés has only played in friendlies with the national team and has only started one of those games, against Venezuela, out of five.
Pepe spoke with “El Partido de las 12” during which he said he and Iker are good friends and good teammates, that he and Víctor only think about helping the national team, and that he has blind faith in Fernando Torres and “he’s been a very important man in my life – but don’t misinterpret that! We’ve shared many moments together.” Have a listen here.
Meanwhile, this article from AS finds a sad precedent for Pepe’s situation as back-up to Iker. During Pepe’s father Miguel’s time on the national team, he found himself in the shadow of José Ángel Iríbar. Pepe says, “it’s true that history repeats itself and what has happened with Iker and me happened with my father and Iríbar, but I keep my hopes up and I’m alert. In football, everything can change in a minute and my job is to always be at 100 percent if the coach needs me.” He says of Iker, “it’s been tough in some moments, but it’s also a privilege to have been part of the best years of the national team. With Iker, the uphill battle is made less steep because he’s a great captain, an excellent teammate and in my case, un amigo de alma. I’ve never had a problem, not even a discussion with him.”
Pepe’s autobiography, the imaginatively titled “Pepe – My Autobiography” comes out soon. I hope it’s better written than “El mundo en nuestras manos.”
Fernando Llorente spoke to Liga BBVA. I stopped listening after the first question on how the day to day with the national team is (“it’s great, there’s a great atmosphere, we are always playing cards, spending time together when we’re not training, having fun”) because I was too mesmerized by his eyes.
Iker posted this photo on his Facebook yesterday, writing, “I just finished eating dinner, I went up the elevator to the fifth floor and as soon as I got off… tachan tachan!!!!! I found myself in a parchís gambling den! It seems that lately, the people of the national team are motivated by this strategy game. Jajajaja!!! Here you have part of the “culé command” (I say that with all the affection in the world)!!!! Jajajaja.” I wonder who won the game, out of Piqué, Thiago, Xavi and Pedro? I love that they’re playing in the hall right next to the elevator. Where did they get the table from? By the way, the entire delegation has occupied 53 rooms on the fifth floor of the hotel.
And the Adidas-sponsored players got together to celebrate Adidas’ five million Facebook friends. This picture is the stuff of nightmares for me, despite Javi’s (!!!) presence; David Silva is the only part I like. I love you David Silva.
A survey carried out by Ikerfel for newspaper AS found that fans from 11 first division clubs identify more with their own teams than with the Spanish national team. Out of all those surveyed, 43 percent prefer their own team, 22 percent prefer La Roja and 35 percent identifies with both [I would be included in that group]. Sevilla’s fans like La Roja the best (La Roja has played 42 games there) and La Real’s the least. Fans from Granada, Getafe, Zaragoza, Valencia, Málaga, Racing and Betis also prefer La Roja over their teams. Unsurprisingly, fans from La Real, Athletic and Osasuna dislike the national team the most.
The data supports the choosing of sites for official and friendly matches by the RFEF since Euro 2008, since they want to bring the national team to places where they will most be welcome: Murcia (twice), Albacete, A Coruña, Mérida, Salamanca, Granada, Logroño, Alicante. They’ve also played in Villarreal, Sevilla and Madrid (three times), with a lot of success.
Spain’s last two games in 2011 will be friendlies against England and Costa Rica. On Nov. 12, La Roja will take on England at Wembley (18:15h Spain time), followed by Costa Rica at the Nuevo Estadio Nacional in San José on Nov. 15 (the kickoff time is still to be determined).
Bonus Javi (!!!)
Because of those legs.
Posted on October 11, 2011, in interviews, players, training and tagged alba, cazorla, del bosque, iker, javi, llorente, pepe, puyol, sergio, thiago, torres, valdés, villa, xabi. Bookmark the permalink. 19 Comments.