around the world with La Roja

Well, La Roja’s last trip of the year has ended, and we won’t see the boys together again until next year.  The results left me with a bittersweet feeling, but on the other hand, that means that there’s only room for improvement as we head into the last months before the 2012 Eurocopa, right?  And we know that Spain always steps it up for official games.  Anyway, here’s a rundown of all the things that La Roja and La Rojita went through during the last week.

Saturday.

This had all the ingredients of a fantastic game: Iker’s record tying appearance, the new jerseys (and the modeling academy graduates in action), and with eight of the players on La Roja having played or currently playing in England, the opportunities for bare chests at the conclusion of the game were many.

Well, we did get all that, but not the result we wanted, as the curse of the friendlies continued for Spain, with La Roja losing 0-1 to England (so I’m not sure if either this game or the next one deserved an ICYMI post).

That was disappointing, but let’s focus on the good things.  As VDB said after the game, “it’s not a sad defeat, I believe the team had given everything it had.”

When I saw Iker make his debut with the Spanish national team, 11 and a half years ago, I never, ever imagined that he would one day become captain, much less that he would become the most capped player in Spanish history.  After all, he was all of 19 years old, and he didn’t even have continuity in his own club.  But on Saturday, Iker Casillas – no longer with floppy hair and that baby face, but with the same humility and determination he’s always had – tied Andoni Zubizarreta as the Spaniard who has suited up the most times for his country.  Unfortunately, he looked suspiciously like a banana on this special occasion, especially when he was stretching sideways.

After the game, Iker started out by saying that he doesn’t like to talk about himself, but as he had to, he said it was a shame that he couldn’t celebrate this milestone with a victory, and that it was gratifying on a personal level as “you look back and see what you’ve achieved and you feel proud.”  Iker also thanked his present and past teammates for their help, and ended by saying that “now we’re tied, this will all fade into the background.”  Yes, that’s our Iker!

Eight of the La Roja players that played on Saturday have represented English teams: Pepe Reina, Piqué, Arbeloa, Xabi, PF Juan Mata, Torres, Silva and Cesc, so this game was full of hugs before the game…

… and shirt exchanges at the half and after (I love it when the shirts start flying off, don’t you?).  Joe Hart got the most sought after prize at the conclusion of the game: a shirt signed by Iker, his idol.  And since I’m so kind, here are also some photos (screencaps) of our topless boys: Silva, Sergio (I love it when we get a glimpse of that tattoo he has down there), Xabi, PF Juan Mata.

PF has only been with Chelsea for less than three months, but it looks like he gets along really well with all his teammates!  All this footage courtesy of the FA’s wonderful “tunnel cam” – watch the full video here.

Other notes and stuff.

Cesc received a warm welcome from the Wembley crowd, while Fernando Torres was whistled at when he entered the game, as well as every time he touched the ball after.  Pobrecito.

Sergio congratulated Iker for his 126 games in a tweet and gave us these photos…

… while Iker recorded a little video for the fans.

It says: “Hi friends, from Wembley I’d like to send everyone a big hug and say thank you for today, I’ve received so many messages, and I don’t have words to describe my gratitude.  So I’d just like to say thank you , and I hope we’ll be able to spend a lot more time together and that there will be many more games.  A big hug.”

Iker’s friends, the ones made famous by the Mahou commercial, traveled to London to support him.  On camera, however, they decided to tease him, especially Bici, Iker’s cousin (the one with the glasses).

Sunday.

Spain arrived in San José, Costa Rica at 04:15h in the morning on the Vicente Aleixandre after an 11-hour flight from London.  Each time I see them in passport control, I always wonder what their passport photos look like.  I bet that mere mortals aren’t allowed to go up to the passport control booth in groups, but it’s cute that Sergio is always hovering over Jesús.  Plus, it was funny how some of the personnel, after stamping the passports, took pictures with the players.

Despite the early hour, many enthusiastic fans were waiting at the airport to greet them.  As it was so early in the morning and the players were of course tired after the game and the long flight, plus the seven-hour time difference, the team headed straight to their hotel, the Barceló Palacio.

About 12 hours later, the boys were training at the Proyecto Goal installations of the Costa Rican football federation.  It was a recovery session for the starters against England, and a more intensive session for the substitutes or those who hadn’t played many minutes, and lasted about an hour.

The fans who showed up cheered on the players, while the press took photo after photo.

I love the camera panning up and down that body, as well as the bounciness of Carles’ hair.  Meanwhile, David Villa was in no mood to joke around with Geri Piqué – look at that face! – while Geri was his usual anything makes me laugh self.

Afterward however, David looked a bit more cheerful, walking to the bus with his arm wrapped around Jordi Alba.

The players had the option of doing extra work in the gym, which some of them did.

Several lucky fans also got autographs from our boys, including Iker, Sergio, Xabi, David Villa, Fernando Torres and Carles Puyol, who all stopped to mingle with the fans.  The press wasn’t so lucky, as not many of the players were willing to speak with them.  Iker limited himself to saying that he hoped the game would be a good one and that the fans would enjoy themselves.  And this adorable little boy was super excited to see Fernando Torres up close.  When Fernando was still several people away, he kept shouting his name, and then “why are you so bad?” when Fernando took his time to make it to him.  His expression changed as soon as Fer got close, and when Fernando was signing his cap, he couldn’t help himself and so he stuck out his arm and ruffled Fernando’s hair (I’d probably do the same), which earned him a smile from the player.

In declarations to “Al Primer Toque,” Vicente del Bosque confirmed that Iker would be playing on Tuesday against Costa Rica, allowing him to become the most capped player in Spanish history.  He also revealed that Víctor Valdés would get some minutes in the game.

Monday.

On Monday morning, the team headed to the Casa Presidencial to meet with Costa Rican President Laura Chinchilla (fun fact: the first gentleman, José María Rico, is Spanish).  While waiting for the event to begin, Puyi decided to stroke Cesc’ hair (luckily for him, there a lot of it for him to touch), while Sergio teased El Chori by repeatedly pinching his leg as he told a very interesting story (judging by his expression) to the rest of the A-team and Fernando Llorente.  Jesús Navas’ glance into the camera makes him look like a co-conspirator.

In the first part of the event, the players met the president and posed for an official photo together, and Ángel Villar and Laura Chincilla both gave speeches (during which the players fidgeted, especially Sergio, and subtly whispered to each other, especially those in the back row).

As we can see, they also gave each other massages.  If it were Fernando Llorente massaging my shoulders, I’d have the same reaction as Nacho Monreal.  And Sergio took it upon himself to adjust Villa’s shirt.

Iker Casillas presented the president with a personalized shirt, the new one of La Roja, and Ángel Villar gave her a commemorative plaque.  They then posed together for the obligatory foto de familia.

Afterward, the players went out into the garden and signed autographs for fans.  It was a madhouse.

Raúl Albiol and Cesc spoke to the press in the habitual press conference.  When asked about the upcoming game, Cesc replied, “I believe that for us, each game is more and more important.  This is the last game we have before the Eurocopa, and we’re going to give it our all, knowing that we have very few opportunities to be together before the Eurocopa, and so we have to take advantage of them.  We have to continue growing as a team and learning things about ourselves.”  Meanwhile, El Chori, when asked about the criticism that this trip had received (for being such a long way to travel for a friendly), responded “we’re happy to be here,” thus cutting off any attempts by the press to stir things up.

VDB, in his press conference, reiterated that Iker would be playing: “he’s going to play for sure, it’s a game that is a very important number, for surpassing the record that we spoke about.  In any case, this game means something for us and so we should play it with the same attitude we had against England.”

In the afternoon training session at the Estadio Nacional de San José, the team worked out in front of a fairly sizable crowd, preparing for the upcoming friendly.  Fernando Llorente left the session with pain in his right knee, a re-occurrence of an old injury.  His presence in Tuesday’s game was not ruled out, however.

I love it when it looks more like recess than a training session (look at how high David Silva had to jump to get to Fernando Llorente’s level!)…

… and when they hold hands.

After the session, Iker threw his gloves and boots into the crowd, but unfortunately did not strip any further.  One of his boots landed on the ground, and a security guard made off with it, stuffing it under his jacket so that no one could get it.  When Iker saw footage of it later, he laughed and said, “qué gracioso.”  He also talked about important games and days with La Roja: the day that changed history was when Spain played Italy in the 2008 Eurocopa quarterfinals, the worst game was against South Korea in the 2002 World Cup, the best game was a 2008 Eurocopa qualifier against Denmark where everything was at stake, and the semifinal against Germany in the 2010 World Cup (Spain deserved a 9.5 out of 10).  Iker also says he’d like to play in Australia, because he’s never played there and he’d like to play on all the continents.

The day ended with a reception at the site of the Costa Rican football federation.

Tuesday.

Well, at least this trip is over, and we didn’t lose this game, despite the first half being some of the worst football played by La Roja in the Del Bosque era, with things improving in the second half.  This picture and David’s face pretty much sum up the game.

Once again, we’ll focus on the positive, which is Iker Casillas’ record-breaking 127th appearance with Spain, leaving him all alone on top of the all-timed games played list.  Unfortunately, Iker will probably remember this game for his mistakes and the tie, rather than his big achievement with Spain.

The only consolation was the combination of the rain and the white jerseys…

… and the shirt removal after the game.

Following the game, Iker was asked by the Estadio Nacional to leave his handprints in concrete for their hall of fame.  He made a mistake when he first posted on his FB about it, saying “han mortalizado mis manos…”  He realized his mistake quickly, giving a follow-up post in which he said “what a day!!!  Another mistake!!!  I wanted to say “inmortalizar…” I’m sure that twitter is abuzz with my error!!  Jajajaja!!!!”  How nice of Costa Rica to give Spain the trophy from the game…

Other players besides Iker are also racking up games with La Roja: Sergio Ramos and David Villa, playing in their 82nd game, surpassed José Antonio Camacho to move into ninth on the all-time games played list.  Their next goal is Fernando Hierro in eighth place with 89, who was surpassed by Fernando Torres in this game, as he played his 90th game.  Other active players in the top 10 are Xavi with 107, Puyol with 98 and Xabi with 92.

Wednesday.

The team arrived in Barajas around 12:30h in the morning, after a 10-hour flight from San José.  This was the last stop for several players, while others had to continue on with their journeys.  The team won’t be back together until 2012!

Costa Rican goalkeeper Keylor Navas hitched a ride with the Spanish delegation, as he plays for Levante and so he had to return to Spain.  He said that Iker Casillas and Víctor Valdés had congratulated him for his performance in the friendly, and that “it’s a source of pride that big stars value your work.”

Later that day in Madrid, Fernando Torres presented the Spanish version of his autobiography, Number Nine, at the Hotel Meliá Barajas (with PF Juan Mata sitting in the first row; they would go back to England together later).  The English version was released back in 2009, and so this version has been updated with Fernando’s musings on the World Cup and his move to Chelsea.  Here’s an excerpt about the World Cup.

June 29, 2010.  Cape Town, South Africa.  La Roja was in the quarterfinals after Villa’s goal against Portugal.  “My sensations were not only of joy, as I was also anguished.  I had always believed that when someone renounces everything to achieve what he wants and works hard, in the end, this hard work will be rewarded.  My theory, however, was now shrouded in doubt.  My free time was spent with the fisios on the treatment table and in the gym.  I only had time to take care of my joints… during the nights, before I went to sleep, I would pray to wake up feeling better than the previous day.  My knee was an obsession.”

July 11, 2010.  Johannesburg, South Africa.  Iniesta had just scored, and the team was waiting for the whistle to blow.  Torres ran for a ball and… “I felt like I had been shot.  I fell to the ground.  A few seconds before the referee blew the whistle, I was lying on the grass.  I didn’t open my eyes until I got back to the locker room with Raúl, Fernando (the fisios) and Dr. Cota.”

Other things.

Remember the Mahou commercial featuring the siblings of our players?  Well, this video of Sergio Soldado, Raúl Arbeloa and Nando Cazorla speaking about their famous brothers recently came out.  Nando and Santi could be twins, no?

Sergio Soldado is 29, a PE teacher and the brother of Roberto Soldado.  He says, “after Roberto made it to Real Madrid, I told him that he had to continue working and fighting, because it was only the beginning, and he couldn’t afford to rest, and look where he is now, it was worth it.”

Raúl Arbeloa is 32, a businessman and the brother of Álvaro Arbeloa.  He says, “my younger brother is una máquina, he had his head on straight, he always said he needed to study because it’s very difficult to succeed in football.  Fame hasn’t changed him at all.”

Nando Cazorla is 31, a maintenance technician and brother of Santi Cazorla.  He says, “I remember playing at home when we were small, every several days we would break a window in the house with the ball.”

And there’s also a bonus picture of baby Álvaro!

And Fernando Llorente posted this photo on his Facebook – we once again see that he was always, always the tallest.

This sums things up pretty well:  Conspiracy against La Roja to make them lose their European title.  UEFA declares the 2012 Eurocopa to be a tournament of friendlies!

Liga BBVA got José Ángel Iribar, Luis Arconada and Zubi – three legendary Spanish goalkeepers (as all three of these men are from País Vasco, I now see how fortuitous that José Luis and Carmen gave their son a Basque name) to sign one pair of gloves for Iker.  Iker’s reaction?  “Joder,” and disbelief.

On Thursday, Joan Piqué, Gerard’s father, presented his first novel, “Dues Vides” (“Two Lives”) in the Casa del Libro in Barcelona.  The book is about an engineer whose life changes when he goes to the United States, and is dedicated to Joan’s father, Gerard’s grandfather (when Joan mentioned this, Geri got a bit teary-eyed).  On hand to support the elder Piqué was of course his eldest son, accompanied by his girlfriend Shakira.  In the audience as well were his two best friends, Cesc and Carles Puyol (Geri’s mom Montserrat was very affectionate with them).

And because every post needs a bit of Javi (!!!): on Thursday, he confirmed that he’s made a full recovery from the muscle problem that kept him out of La Roja’s two most recent friendlies: “the break allowed me to recover from this injury… it appears that everything is going well and I’m not going to feel any more pain.”  He spent most of the press conference with his club playing with his iPhone, until there was feedback from its proximity to the microphone.  Then, he placed it on his lap (the one place where I’d like to be).

The Xabi Alonso (world tour) pose section.™

From England…

… to Costa Rica.

La Rojita.

La Rojita showed their superiority and dominance once more as they beat Switzerland, that old nemesis, 3-0 in their fifth qualifying game of the 2013 Euro, making it five out of five for the younger brothers of the senior team.  Iker Muniain (he makes it look so easy), Thiago (penalty) and Marc Bartra (a spectacular header) all scored for Spain, and all in the first half.

La Rojita disbanded on Tuesday, as their two-game Euro qualifying trip, which is also the last of this year, came to an end.  The players who play for clubs in Barcelona left first thing in the morning, taking a flight back to the Ciudad Condal.  The majority of the other players left Córdoba for Madrid via AVE.  In Madrid, only Pablo Sarabia and Koke were at home, as the rest of the players had to continue traveling to their respective cities of residence.

The three amigos (or brothers) also had to be separated, with one going to Manchester, another to Bilbao and the other to Zaragoza.  From their tweets, it looks like they’ll keep in touch, as they’ve promised presents to each other (whatever that means): Iker, David, Juan Carlos.  Juankar also tweeted “how strange it is arriving at home from training and not having David and Iker there… I miss you all” and David also tweeted that he missed them.

And Luis Milla also told COPE that he would like to have “Thiago, Muniain, Javi Martínez and Mata for the Olympic Games, but everything depends on Vicente del Bosque and the plans he has for the Eurocopa.  They are very excited about this, but there is a European tournament and we have to negotiate with the boys and the clubs.  I hope to have them in London, but I would also be happy for them to go to Poland and Ukraine.”

Milla’s lucky, because he also has a great generation of former U-19 players to count on.

Punto Pelota did this cute little test with Álvaro Vázquez and Marc Bartra, which tested how much the two boys know about each other.  Here’s the translation.

Álvaro Vázquez on Marc Bartra. 

Where was he born?  AV: I think in Barcelona, I think.  MB: In Barcelona.  1-0.

His favorite food.  AV: I know that he likes the macaroni in Bechamel that the chef of the national team makes.  MB: I like everything, but I do really like Cuban-style rice.  1-1.

A pastime besides football.  AV: Spending time with his girlfriend, he’s always talking about her.  MB: Spending time with my lifelong friends.  1-2.

His favorite movie.  AV: Invictus.  MB: Peaceful Warrior.  1-3.

His nickname.  AV: Marcos.  Or Bartra.  Or Marquitos.  MB: I’m called everything.  But usually they call me Batas, or things like that.  1-4.

His idol.  AV: I would say Puyol.  MB: Carles Puyol.  2-4.

What size feet does he have?  AV: 43.5MB: 42.  2-5 (despite the confidence with which AV answered the question).

Does he like to read?  AV: Yes.  (What does he read?)  He reads books about coaching.  MB: Yes.  Right now I’m reading Jugar con el corazón by Xesco Espar.  I’m liking it a lot.  3-5.

His favorite music.  AV: Reggaeton.  MB: House, I also like El Canto del Loco, well, they’re no longer together, but I really like Dani Martín.  3-6.

How does he spend time during the concentraciones?  AV: By being annoying, just a bit.  MB: Reading, and spending time with my teammates, talking with them.  3-7.

Final score: 30 percent.

Marc Bartra on Álvaro Vázquez.

Where was he born?  MB: Badalona.  AV: Barcelona.  I’ve spent my entire life in Badalona, but I was born in Barcelona.  0-1.

His favorite food.  MB: Lasagna.  AV: I like pizza a lot.  0-2.

A pastime besides football.  MB: I suppose spending time with his friends.  AV: Listening to music.  0-3.

His favorite movie.  MB: Ummm… I don’t know, I don’t know!  His favorite movie… hey, what’s your favorite movie?  AV: I don’t know which one to choose, I have a lot.  0-4.

His nickname.  MB: Alvarito.  AV: Alvarito.  1-4.

His idol.  MB: I think it’s Ronaldo, but I’m not sure.  AV: Ronaldo.  2-4.

What size feet does he have?  MB: Forty… four.  AV: 44.  3-4.

Does he like to read?  MB: The truth is I haven’t seen him reading a lot.  AV: I don’t read a lot, but I do like to read.  3-5.

His favorite music.  MB: I suppose house music, or the current hits.  AV: Everything, reggaeton, house, current music.  4-5.

How does he spend time during the concentraciones? MB: Playing parchís on his iPad, or annoying his teammates (“tocando un poquito los huevos de los compañeros”).  AV: I’m a bit annoying, tocar un poco los… a los compañeros.  (That’s what he said, the exact same thing!)  He did?  I didn’t say anything.  5-5.

Who hooks up more?  MB: He says I do, but I say it’s him.  AV: Me.  6-5.

Final score: 55 percent, Marc is the better teammate!

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Posted on November 19, 2011, in games, la rojita, players, team, training, videos and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 20 Comments.

  1. Thank you Una, you’re awesome.

  2. Great post Una! I love the first team pic where Xavi & Silva are absolutely dwarfed by Pique! I LOVE my bajitos!!!

    And can somebody PLEASE consult with Cesc on his choice of hairstyle and hair products! What is up with the drowned rat mullet look?!?!?! Puyi was even playing with it in one of the shots, hopefully telling him to fix that mess!

  3. There were so many great things in this post but I can’t think form a thought about anything but that baby picture of Arbeloa!

  4. great, great post, una! that was a lovely deluge of la roja… thank you:)

  5. Great roundup post, thanks Una! Much appreciated.

    is that a shirtless Iniesta I see?!? That NEVER happens! :)

  6. Una, I noticed that after Lampard scored, Xabi (who was marking him) went into his pose! I wouldn’t know about The Pose if it weren’t for your blog.

  7. Another fantastically detailed account. Thank you so much! Its great to see how well the players from all the teams and countries get along behind the scenes.

  8. Thank you for the update! By any chance, will you be translating Nando’s book?

  9. Thanks for the post! Cute pix of the boys. I like the ones of Villa with Sergio, Jordi Alba, Santi Cazorla, etc. Let’s hope they remain unbeaten in the games that count!

  10. Yay, you’re back! I hope you enjoyed your trip :)

    Thank you very much for writing this long update! and I think you’re right.. those two games didn’t really deserve an ICYMI.. but I like that you only focused on the positive aspects. Puyi’s hair is gorgeous when it’s bouncing xD
    and Iker, oh it’s such a shame to play your 127th game with an error (it was quite hilarious..) but at least you can laugh about it (which is what you should do :P)

  11. Wow! Thank you, Una. I can only imagine the amount of hard work that must have gone into this.

    P.S: Whom does Xabi give his jersey too?

  12. Glad to have you back Una! Thanks for this brilliant long post. Too much to comment on, but isn’t the tunnelcam the most brilliant thing?! There should be one at every game! Also great work on the Xabi Alonso Pose World Tour section! You know your readers well!. Love all the emotional Iker. He’s made us so proud. Also the way Sergio acts like Navas’ protector is the sweetest thing, especially since Jesus has been known to have homesickness issues. I’ll stop now before this gets too long!

  13. underfootoverhead

    Is it just me, or do the extra bright red kits give Spain a disadvantage on offside calls (bolder colors = looks bigger) ? Silva was (wrongly) called offside twice when he was through on goal. Also, how many times has Villa hit the post now? His reaction this time was classic. Poor guy.

    The FA also had a video of Spain training at Wembley. Sometimes they remind me of a herd of kittens with a ball of yarn. Here it is:

    The Costa Rica game was pretty bad, but I like how they came back from 2-0 to tie in the 2nd half. It could have been a win, since they came close so many times (I thought Ramos’ header had gone in at first), but I suppose a draw is fair. In the first half, a lot of the players looked tired (jet lagged?).

    Speaking of jet lag, Marca posted an article after the game about how much the RFEF makes off of the friendlies, with the implication that the Costa Rica game was basically them selling it to the highest bidder. And that explains why they’re being sent on such a long flight for a friendly. That’s pretty depressing, and I hope they reconsider what they’re doing to the NT prior to the Euros this summer because Germany is looking really scary, and I really hope Spain does well.

    Also, thanks for the blog!

  14. love u, una

  15. Baby Alvaro has made my day :)

  16. Ooh, just watched the tunnel cam video, nice! Club related..but for anyone wanting to see Llorente looking smashing and modeling in his club suit, check out his fb page!

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