all set for Venezuela!

The last time Spain played in Málaga was a little over four years ago, on Feb. 5, 2008, and now they’re back, to take on Venezuela in a friendly (21:30h), which is also the team’s last game before preparations begin on this summer’s Eurocopa.

A little game preview.

These stats and information are via Mister Chip and AS.

Centennial wins: today’s game is Spain’s 600th.  Spain has won its last three centennial games.  In number 100, Spain tied England 1-1 in 1955.  In number 200, Spain fell to the Netherlands 3-2 in 1973.  From that point on, it’s all been wins: 2-1 against Ireland in 1985 for number 300, 6-0 against Cyprus in 1995 for number 400, and 1-0 against England in 2004 for number 500.

Home winning streak: Spain has won 23 consecutive games at home, since they fell to Romania 1-0 in Cádiz on Nov. 15, 2006.  This is the longest streak in their history.  VDB’s balance in this streak is spectacular: a record of 14-0-0, 42 goals in favor and only four against.

The exceptions, Argentina and Brazil: Spain has never lost to a South American team that’s not Argentina or Brazil.  In the 31 games against the rest of CONMEBOL, the balance is 22-9-0, with 62 goals in favor and 21 against.

Lions: the last time four Athletic players were called up together was on Oct. 14, 1998.  That time, Alkorta, Bittor Alkiza, Etxeberria and Urzaiz played.  In this call-up, there’s Muniain, Llorente, Javi (!!!) and Iraola.  Amorebieta is with Venezuela.  Only seven Athletic players scored with Spain on the day of their debut.  The last one was Bittor Alkiza.  The last player to score on the day of his debut was Albert Riera (Oct. 13, 2007 against Denmark).

Real Madrid’s cantera: there are five players from the cantera of Real Madrid in this call-up: Iker, Arbeloa, Mata, Soldado and Negredo.  The last time a call-up included at least five canteranos from Madrid was Nov. 19, 2003: Iker, Cañizares, Raúl Bravo, Guti, Raúl.  One year before that, on Oct. 16, 2002, there were six: Iker, Contreras, García Calvo, Raúl Bravo, Guti, Raúl.

Chasing Thuram: Iker could get his 93rd win today with Spain, which will leave him only one away from equalizing the current world record of wins in the history of national team football that is held by France’s Lilian Thuram.  For Xavi, this could be win number 82.

The trip.

On Tuesday morning, the team took the AVE from Atocha to the María Zambrano in Málaga.  The trip took a little more than two hours, meaning La Roja arrived around noon.  The players spent the trip reading, watching movies and TV shows, having breakfast, signing autographs and posing for pictures with fellow passengers and AVE staff, and of course, taking pictures to post on their Facebook and twitter accounts.  The three andaluces got together to celebrate the Día de Andalucía, while the U-21 European champions hung out together (where’s PF?).  I love how Sergio has his arm around Jesús, while Javi (!!!) and Thiago did the same with Iker.

Once in Málaga, they headed to their hotel.  Fans awaited them both at the train station and also at the hotel, and there were higher numbers than usual, due to the Día de Andalucía falling on that Tuesday.  Several of the players stopped to sign autographs before heading into the hotel.

Of note: Fernando Hierro was also at Atocha ready to take the AVE to Málaga, though he didn’t know that he would encounter his former charges!  He hugged some of the boys after seeing them.

The press conferences.

Shortly after the arrival at the hotel, three of the players – Iker Muniain, Roberto Soldado and Santi Cazorla – were ushered into the improvised press room for a press conference.  The first question was for the debutant, Muniain.  He said he was happy to be here.  When asked whether he’s feeling more shy on this team than he was with the U-21 team, he said, “in the beginning, it’s normal, it happens to everyone.  It takes time to gain confidence but my teammates have received me with affection from the first moment and they have integrated me into the group.  I only have words of gratitude for them.”

My favorite part came when Muniain was asked if he’s spoken with Iker: “Iker told me that he’s happy to have a tocayo (someone with the same name) on the national team.”  Jajajaja!!!!  And then came a question about whether he’s been hazed by the veterans: “they haven’t done anything to me yet, they don’t dare… At the moment everything is good.  I have all five senses on alert, so we’ll see what happens, I’ll keep you informed.”

Meanwhile, the “host” Santi Cazorla (on virtue of playing for the hometown team) said he would be happy to play with the national team in Bilbao, as he loves playing there with his club.  He also answered the question about Fernando Torres: “no one doubts that he’ll recover his confidence, I send him a lot of encouragement and a big hug, because he’s a fundamental piece.”  Santi also revealed that he doesn’t believe he has a place on the Eurocopa team yet, and so he has to continue working hard with his club.

Double Cazorla!

Roberto Soldado continued, “there’s a lot of affection for him (Torres) in the locker room, he’s an important player on this team, and he’ll become that once again.  As for me personally, I have a lot of desire to return the confidence that the coach has deposited in me.”

Meanwhile, VDB was asked about Xavi in his press conference.  He said that “all 23 are perfect.  The player should feel comfortable to go out and play.”  There was also a question about if he remembered going to Valencia to sign Roberto Soldado (for Madrid’s youth system) when the latter was 14 years old: “I remember it perfectly, I don’t know the name of the priest that I spoke with [laughter from the press], but I remember perfectly the dirt field where I saw him play, the field of Don Bosco, that it was a sunny morning in Valencia, I remember all that perfectly, except the name of the priest.”

I also loved VDB’s response to a journalist who asked if he hoped that neither Madrid nor Barcelona would make it to the final of the Champions League so those players could get more rest.  Vicente: “what do you think my answer is going to be?  Of course I want Madrid and Barcelona to make it to the final of the Champions.  I’m telling you the truth.  That’s it.  In addition, we’ll adapt to the schedule.”

The training session.

The training session was held on Tuesday afternoon at La Rosaleda, and 20,000 people showed up to cheer on La Roja.

I love how they stretch!

It’s no wonder that Piqué tweeted, “how great were the fans of Málaga in this afternoon’s training session.”  I love this picture, because it totally looks like he’s up to something!

VDB tried out a starting line-up formed by Iker, Iraola, Sergio, Piqué, Jordi Alba, Xabi, Busquets, Cesc, Iniesta, Silva and Llorente.  In good news, Xavi was able to train alongside his teammates.  Meanwhile, Javi Martínez (!!!) was used as a centerback on the theoretical substitutes team.

The scare of the session came during the partidillo, when Xabi Alonso went down after a tackle from Jesús Navas.  He had to be attended to by the doctors, the readaptor and the fisios.  Luckily, Xabi was okay, and Jesús went up to him to ask for forgiveness, and the two of them hugged it out.

Meanwhile, Xavi did his best to draw our attention to a specific part of his body, while Iker continued his habit of giving everything away except his undershirt: fans in Málaga received his sweatshirt, boots and gloves (Adidas must love this).

Some body parts to focus on: Javi’s (!!!) hands, Sergio’s hair…

… and Roberto’s legs.

A couple of lions.

One of the big stories with this call-up was the presence of so many Athletic players (Javi (!!!), Fer, Iker Muniain and Andoni Iraola), plus one more on the team they’re facing in the friendly, Fernando Amorebieta.  With that in mind, everyone wanted to get these boys’ opinions on everything.

TVE interviewed the four leones on La Roja, with Fernando saying, “we’re proud that four players from Athleti are on the team, it’s incredible.  Hopefully we’ll continue like this and continue coming.”

COPE interviewed Javi (!!!) and then brought Amore in.  First, Javi (!!!) says that the atmosphere at the national team’s training sessions is incredible, that he likes the new blue shirt, which is different than what was worn before, and it’s “original” (which usually means that an article of clothing is ugly, but no one wants to come out and say that, so we just use “original” to describe it).  He also reiterated once more that he would like to play in both the Eurocopa and Olympics, but it’s not up to him.

Then the conversation moves on to Amore, to which Javi (!!!) says, “do I miss him?  No, I see a lot of him, so a few days apart from him is good, since he’s annoying (laughs).”  Of course, Amore joins the conversation at that point (they bring him in by saying “here we have Javi Martínez laughing at you”).  Amore tells Javi (!!!) to be careful tomorrow, and Javi (!!!) calls him an “idol” in Venezuela, and one of his best friends on the team.  Then Amore hangs up, and Tomás Guasch jokes about how even the Lakers will be after Javi (!!!) this summer, and Javi (!!!) says he loves watching basketball.  Have a listen here (it’s worth hearing even if you don’t understand Spanish for Javi’s (!!!) laugh, which we get to hear a lot of).

Meanwhile, SER interviewed Amore.  He said he and all his teammates are close, as they grew up in the cantera together, they’ve been roommates on the road, and as for Iker, they are roommates on the road, they have good relationships with each other’s parents as well, and he loves him a lot.  Then the presenters brought Fernando (Llorente) in, and they joked about the upcoming game, with Fer saying, “I told him to take it easy in this game because we have a derby on Sunday.”  Have a listen here.

More on the connections between Amore and his rivals today: when Iker Muniain got to the first team of Athletic, Amore adopted him as a younger brother, and gave him the Bart Simpson nickname.  Fernando coincided with Sergio Ramos, David Silva and Roberto Soldado on Spain’s youth national teams, winning the U-19 Euro with these guys.  He was called up by Vicente del Bosque for a friendly in 2008, although he didn’t play.  This paved the way for him to suit up for Venezuela.

Meanwhile, Javi (!!!) also spoke to Marca, and told them that if it were up to him, he’d be doing the doblete this summer: “I would like very much for the coaches to believe that I can be in both competitions.  I hope I can play in both.  I’m very excited to play in the Olympics.  It’s unique and what every athlete dreams of, not only footballers.  And I’m not an exception.”  He also said that it took him a while to adjust to playing as a centerback, because he only played 15 minutes in that position before: “I have never played there.  Well, I did one time with Caparrós, but he saw that I was overwhelmed in only 15 minutes and he removed me.”  And though this is club related, I liked the response.  Javi (!!!) was asked if he’s received many requests for tickets to the Manchester United-Athletic Europa League game: “more than 300!  I put on my voice mail message that I don’t have tickets for Old Trafford.  Each day I get 15 or 20 requests.  But really, I don’t have any!” 

Reflected Javi looks a bit scary (so notice there are no exclamation marks…).

The picture from Mundo Deportivo’s interview is much better, although there’s of course no La Roja related questions in the interview.

Other things.

VDB, David Villa and Andrés Iniesta have shown their support for the DGenes organization and the Spanish Federation of Rare Diseases via a video campaign, entitled “a goal for rare diseases” to commemorate Rare Disease Day 2012, which is today.  Have a watch here.

The Xabi Alonso pose section.™

La Rojita.

As for La Rojita, their morning session on Tuesday was cancelled.  They did stick with their usual custom of a morning paseo, and walked around their hotel, the Gran Hotel Balneario, passing by an old train in the process (see below).  The group also took a team photo, which will be displayed from now on in the reception of the hotel, alongside photos of the one that would become Eurocopa champions.  So if you ever stay there, go look for them!

Later that night, Spain beat Egypt 3-1 behind two goals from Álvaro Vázquez (not bad for the last minute edition!) and a penalty from Koke.  Cristian Tello also had a great game; he was enormous on the left wing.  David de Gea, Adrián and Rodrigo Moreno sat this game out, watching from the stands.

La Rojita’s great, no?

I kept thinking the Egyptian players weren’t wearing shirts, as their shirts were skin-colored.

The RFEF published an article on the (adorable, love that smile!) captain of this team, César Azpilicueta, who had been the third captain, behind Javi Martínez (!!!) and PF Juan Mata during the 2011 U-21 Euro.  Since those two are now back with the senior team, this team has been left in the charge of Azpi.  He says, “the circumstances of this call-up made me the captain.  It’s always exciting to be the captain, but it’s also a greater responsibility.  With the little experience I have with the national team, I’ll try to show positive things to my teammates and indicate the road so that we’ll all go in the right direction and achieve our objective.”  I can tell he’s already a fantastic captain.

(Note: Diego Capel started the game as captain, since César didn’t, and the armband was handed to Álvaro Domínguez later on.)

And a few shots from the boys’ social network accounts.

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Posted on February 29, 2012, in interviews, la rojita, players, team, training and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 10 Comments.

  1. I’m laughing at xavi streching his … croth? … in this photo! jejejejejeje

  2. Is it Alvaro in the picture with the lady and the dog?

  3. WONDERFUL LONG POST!!! I am so busy I hardly manage to update myself with the RM blog, but this entry is awesome!

    Everytime I see NT again it reminds me of how I miss it when there are international breaks.

    Iker looks great in blue, I love Sergio’s hair! and Javi(!!!!) is all adorable, oh!

    Thanks!!!

  4. I’m overwhelmed with all these great posts! So glad you’re back! ps, Xabi better be ok :(

  5. I love this post. OMG imagine being at Atocha and seeing these guys come down the escalator. Una, I’m going to be in Spain for the month of March – Valencia, Bilbao, BCN and Madrid for forzafutbol.com!! btw.

    I really love your comments lol and Muni is such a laff. He and Soldier Boy seem to be having a blast with La Roja. I love that Muni got to play and that SB got a hat trick! I also love the Athletic clan and the spotlight on La Grulla Amore (!!)

    La Rojita were great as well. They scared me for a sec. Why can’t we wear shirts like Egypt as a second kit (!!!!)

    Un Abrazo!

  6. do you have a link to the video of the press conference ? I love Iker Muniain and specially when he talks, he is so funny.

  7. I have such a huge crush on Amore. The most badass defender in La Liga!!!

  8. Oh wow… That photo of Roberto’s legs rendered me speechless for a while!! I bet if there were a photo of his and Sergio Ramos’ legs together, I’d need to lie down for a good 3-4 hours before recovering properly. Hahaha!

    And why isn’t Llorente’s shirt tight anymore? :(

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