day 19 – almost there…
June 8, 2012.
Our new goalkeeper is hot!!!
The training session.
On a cloudy Friday morning, the team held its last training session in Gniewino before Sunday’s game, as they will train at Gdansk Arena today. In this session, the team practiced ball possession in reduced spaces, as they expect Italy will try and close off spaces.
During the course of the session, Cesc suffered a blow to the head after colliding with Fernando Llorente, which is why Fernando is checking up on Cesc here. Poor Cesc also got stepped on by David Silva during another play, but neither setback kept him from finishing the session.
The practice ended with partidillos of six on six in spaces the size of a futsal pitch. First, Pepe/Sergio/Javi (!!!)/Pedro/Cazorla/Llorente played against Valdés/Juanfran/Albiol/Iniesta/Cesc/Negredo. In the second game, Valdés/Piqué/Arbeloa/Xabi/Silva/Torres took on Iker/Mata/Navas/Xavi/Busquets/Alba. And as you can see, everyone on this team gets along, even… Piqué and Sergio! What a shock!
The press conference.
Fernando Llorente and Gerard Piqué were the protagonists of the longest press conference so far, as they responded to almost 50 questions, both serious ones and not so serious ones.
Piqué on whether he misses Puyol, and how he’s getting along with Sergio Ramos: of course I miss Puyol, since he’s a teammate and almost a brother to me. I’ve spent four years sharing a locker room with him in Barcelona and on the national team. He couldn’t make it due to an injury and he’s very much missed. I think we have the quality and the necessary players to play in his place so that we won’t feel the effects of his absence. With Sergio Ramos, the truth is that things are going well with us in the defense, just like Raúl and Javi Martínez, who can play in our position. The truth is everyone is good. Things are taken out of context and there’s a great atmosphere here. Outside, things are exaggerated and on the national team, we’re all very united and I feel proud that Sergio is on this team…. Carles and Sergio are similar players: they’re physical, they do well up front and are very dependable in the back. With Puyol, we understand each other with just a look, but there’s no problem playing with Sergio, since it’s easy to adapt to him and play with him.
Piqué on being favorites: people don’t like to be the favorites, but I do like it. If we’re considered as the favorites, it’s because they believe we have the necessary team to win the championship. Although it could mean an added pressure, I like it and it gives me the feeling that we have a very strong team. I prefer to have this label and the pressure, I think we all face this in our clubs, and so we can accept it.
Piqué on Jordi Alba: to be sincere, he’s a fantastic player. I’ve been surprised by him because he’s flying here. He’s very small but very fast and skillful. He knows how to defend and attack, and I believe he deserves to be here. I see him with the level to be with a big club [Valencia is pretty big!].
Llorente on the debate about which forwards should play: no, it doesn’t worry me, the press can speak about what it wants. I will just work hard each day and show that I could have a spot on the starting team.
Llorente on what the victory against Italy four years ago meant: it was decisive. Passing on into the semifinals made the national team believe in itself and for everyone, it was an achievement, and of course, since then we’ve believed more in ourselves, and that has been fundamental for our success in the following years.
Piqué on bringing joy to a Spain in the midst of the crisis: we know how the country is, how complicated everything is. I would ask everyone to have confidence in us, because we won’t fail you. [Great statement!]
Llorente on bringing joy to a Spain in the midst of a crisis: we’re conscious that there are many expectations placed on our shoulders and it would be great to bring happiness to Spain and to all these people who are going through bad moments. We’re conscious of that and we’re working hard to bring them a triumph, because that would be the biggest joy we could give them.
As for the fun questions, the boys were asked about Scalextric game that they have in the game room (apparently, it was purchased by an employee of the federation because he had heard that Andrés Iniesta had miniature one in his home and so he thought it would be a good addition in Gniewino). Piqué said they prefer to play cards, Fernando added that they tried it out on the first day, and then moved on to cards, and Piqué reiterated that they prefer to play card games, because that requires thinking, and the Scalextric is “very easy.” I bet Iker would play!
They were also asked what they were doing four years ago when Spain beat Italy in the Eurocopa quarterfinals, since neither of them were on the team at that point.
Piqué: I think I was in Mallorca on vacation, I remember Cesc’ penalty, how I was watching the game with friends and how we jumped for joy. It was a step forward after many years (looks to the press officer, who tells him the last time Spain won was in 1964)… since 1964, and it was a great joy.
Llorente: I was on vacation, but I don’t remember where, I’m sorry.
Piqué: because back then you didn’t have Bielsa, or else you would have been training.
Fernando was also asked about receiving the bread on the first day: “I was of course surprised, I thought we would each receive a small loaf that was already cut up, but they wanted to give me the entire bread. I gave it to Silvia, and then I think it was used for our meals later on.”
Fernando Torres, Juanfran, Santi Cazorla and Xabi Alonso were the other players to be offered to the press for interviews.
The players spent the evening watching the first games of the Eurocopa.
In an interview with Marca, Sergio was asked about his relationship with Piqué, to which he responded, “I always say the same. We don’t have any problems and we get along well.” So please Spanish press, can you let this issue rest and not keep asking about it? Another question was similar to what Piqué and Llorente had been asked in the press conference. The interviewer told Sergio to send a message to the country as fourth captain of the national team, to which he responded, “we’re going to fight so that in each game, you can disconnect from the problems that you have, so that you can enjoy watching your national team. For us, it’s an even bigger commitment than what’s happening. Making people feel excited, bringing out smiles are things that make us stronger. It’s wonderful to see people identifying themselves with the shirt of La Roja. I love that.”
In an interview with the RFEF, Santi Cazorla said, “I’m a person that likes to be happy, to be content and to transmit this happiness to be people I’m with… that smile is that last thing you should lose.”
Fernando Torres’ took COPE’s little test, which they always do at the conclusion of an interview (listen to the interview and test here).
Would you be capable of explaining to us what is the risk premium in 10 seconds? Excuse me? The premium risk. No. It’s up to you to take the last penalty in the final, who is the last person you think of? No one, I’ll take it and score it. If the king comes into the locker room after you win the title, who would tell the joke about the elephant? (Laughs) I don’t know, it won’t be me. “It’s not normal to sell an image of perfection because no one is perfect.” Who said this and about whom was it said? I don’t know, but I agree [Mourinho said it about Guardiola]. When you have doubts, you… ask. Why are football players always seen on television spitting on the field after missing a goal? I don’t know, I’ve never seen it. What country was the current pope born in? The country? Germany or… What is the typical animal of Poland. Animal? I don’t know? We’re about to end. Could this be one of the three worst interviews you’ve ever done? No, it’s not in my top three.
Meanwhile, Pepe Reina was interviewed by Punto Pelota, and they also made him do a little test (as you can see, Spanish journalists love this type of thing) to see what he knows about Poland. Pepe got the capital right, and then couldn’t say what the typical food is (he responded, for us, it’s pasta) or name where Spain will play its first game (Gdansk Stadium was his guess). The questions about what the name of the Polish currency and how to pronounce the name of the town they’re in (Gniewino) also tripped him up a bit. Irene then asked him how to spell the name, and so Pepe started looking around for a sign. He found one, but then didn’t read it well, because his answer was “Gnewino.”
The Xabi Alonso pose section.™