all set for England!
Spain plays England tonight in a friendly (17:15h local time, 18:15h Spain time) and all eyes will be on Iker Casillas, as his presence in this game means that he ties Andoni Zubizarreta as the most capped player in Spanish history, with 126 games. What a career our boy has had, no? And I couldn’t imagine a better captain for my Spain. All eyes were on Iker at yesterday’s training session as well, including the fans who watched him warm up; the video cameras, who captured the moment that Iker posed for this photo that Dr. Cota took for his Facebook; and of course, Dr. Cota.
The press conference.
The two captains spoke to the press in London (unfortunately not in English, since I’d like to see how Iker does without his second best friend Google Translate present, and how much Xavi has advanced since he started lessons). Before the press conference started, the RFEF played a surprise tribute video for Iker, who was speechless after viewing it, with tears forming in his eyes. Here is Iker’s reaction (“joder”), the part where the tears start pooling, and finally his lovely and modest smile during the round of applause that followed, from VDB and Xavi, plus the entire press corps.
I seriously love how easily Iker cries. And how that hasn’t changed throughout his entire career.
Afterward, he managed to say, “I’m grateful to the Federation for this detail that touched me and I also thank the míster, my teammate and the press for their applause.”
It was hard to top that, but I loved what Xavi said about Iker in the press conference that followed. Here’s what he said, plus a few other selected quotes.
Iker on what’s left after 11 years and 125 games: I believe the people who have shared so much time with me know that I don’t usually talk about things until they happen. The best part were the last few years, the best ones that the national team has had, but everything has been important, and I want to continue contributing to and helping the team. We’ve done something beautiful for the country.
Xavi on Iker: although we play for different clubs, we’ve shared many moments on the national team, both good and bad. I’ve known him since we were 15, 16, 17, so it’s been many years of shared experiences. In terms of football, I’m not going to say anything new, he’s a marvelous goalkeeper, he’s saved us on many occasions from defeats, including penalty shootouts. He has that star that few have; when it looks like everything will be lost, Iker appears and he saves you. He has one more life, one more credit. He’s one of those persons who unites a locker room, he makes the entire group feel good and that’s fantastic. As a captain, he talks about everything, asks about everything, consults on everything. The best thing is the kind of person he is.
Xavi on the most memorable save by Iker for him: the most significant one is the one he made against Robben in the World Cup final. Perhaps it’s not the most beautiful one. I also remember one against Perotti in the Liga in the Sánchez Pizjuán, but perhaps the most important one is that one, without a doubt.
(and the best question) Iker on who came up with the term “máquina”: it’s from 10 years ago, when we met for the first time in the U-17 World Cup. I was one of the youngest players and he was one of the veterans [a non-answer; unfortunately, we still don’t know who came up with it].
Meanwhlile, VDB confirmed that Iker will be playing against England, along with one of the other goalkeepers, that Sergio will play as a centerback, and that Jordi Alba and Nacho Monreal will play one game each.
The training session.
The players trained at Wembley in the afternoon. The players did rondos, tactical exercises, disputed a game, and ended the session by practicing free kicks against Iker and Pepe.
Iker posed with 2/3 of the A-team prior to the session (I love how Xabi has the ball under his arm), while Sergio did the same with PF Juan Mata and Fernando Torres. Meanwhile, Puyi gave us a tantalizing glimpse of his abs. More please!
And of course, the Perfect Profile and the Perfect Hair both also got a workout, along with Iker’s tongue.
I love these portrait-type photos. And I’m glad Cesc is holding his hair back in the photo, because the boy needs a haircut.
Juan Mata at El País.
Everyone’s favorite picho spoke to El País yesterday. Highlights:
on life in London: right now, I’m not recognized too much. I’ve been able to spend free days shopping in Camden, going to the flea market in Notting Hill… and the cultural offerings are spectacular. The other day, I was at the O2 watching a local DJ and a Rania concert. I’m enjoying everything both on and off the field. And searching for an apartment has allowed me to visit a lot of the city.
on the strangest thing about England: the hours of the games, since you have to eat very early, at 10 in the morning… Of course I miss Valencia, home… but I’m happy. I think that’s noticeable in my game.
on things going well for him and Silva: it’s more David, no? Things are going well for us. I’m happy. And I’m happy for him because he deserves it. He’s fantastic.
on his nickname at Chelsea: Johnny Kills. Sturridge named me that and it’s stuck.
Tweets and stuff.
And why doesn’t Jesús Navas have a nickname, if he hangs out with Vareta, Chori and Churu?
Plus, I wonder what Iker and Arbeloa were looking at in the elevator? I like how Jesús Navas, like the good best friend he is, is looking at the camera and smiling for Sergio’s picture, while Iker and Álvaro are ignoring him.
The U-21 team traveled to Antequera yesterday, to begin preparations for Monday’s game against Switzerland in Córdoba. Spain is on a hot streak, no players are injured (Iker Muniain has recovered from the stomach problems that kept him out of the previous game) and hopefully we can seal our qualification for the 2013 Euro at the Nuevo Arcángel.
On the bus to Antequera, Iker Muniain gave us these photos, the first with Juan Carlos, and the second of him and Juan Carlos with a sleeping David de Gea (didn’t know David wears glasses, maybe that’s why they’re making fun of him), which prompted David to tweet back that the photo was totally posed. And I didn’t know that Iker likes listening to Andy & Lucas! Meanwhile, Thiago tweeted that they just arrived in Málaga, the land of the great Dani Pacheco! Adorable.
I’ve heard that Spain’s second color for the next year will be light blue, much like the training shirts they are wearing now. This is the first time that Spain will wear this color to play with. The shorts will be a darker blue.
And a bonus picture from Thursday’s training session. How cute are Iker and David Villa?