day 24 – all set for Ireland!
June 13, 2012.
Spain takes on Ireland tonight (20:45h), the team that elevated Iker Casillas to sainthood. On June 16, 2002, just about a decade ago, Iker – back then just Iker Casillas – and Spain faced Ireland in the World Cup round of 16. Iker was only playing because of the freak accident to Santi Cañizares (that cologne bottle must be the only one, or at least one of a very few, to have changed the course of a country’s history). The game ended in a draw, with Iker making a huge save against an Ian Harte penalty to preserve that score in the 90th minute, and so the game was to be decided by penalties. He made two more saves during the penalty shootout (against David Connolly and Kevin Kilbane – I still remember those names, do you?) and San Iker was born.
The training session.
The official training session was held in Gniewino rather than Gdansk, as Vicente del Bosque didn’t want his team to practice on the field of Gdansk Arena. Before the session started, Javi Martínez (!!!) tried out his luck as a goalkeeper, attempting to stop some of the shots that his teammates sent his way. Raúl Albiol also joined the fun, experiencing what it’s like to be Iker, Pepe or Víctor. Neither Javi (!!!) nor Raúl was able to stop the majority of the shots.
Shortly after, the training session started, with the habitual warm-up and rondos. The session ended with a partidillo, where Álvaro Negredo scored a fantastic goal.
The team traveled to Gdansk in the afternoon.
The press conferences.
Xabi Alonso, Cesc and Jordi Alba spoke to the press from Gdansk on Wednesday afternoon.
Xabi on VDB’s tactical decisions: we’ve already used this tactic. It’s a different one, and one that we can work with. We scored a good goal without a forward. The result was good. The tactics were fantastic. Any decision made by Del Bosque is good.
on the criticism: we’re conscious that winning things is difficult, and we have to take one step at a time. Despite the noise that there could be, internally we are all very tranquil. We have confidence in ourselves. If we remain alert, focused and give it 100 percent, we have many possibilities of winning and moving forward.
on playing Ireland: I have a special affection for Ireland from the summer I spent there when I was younger, and for the Irish people, due to the atmosphere I experienced in the stands, the affection the fans show towards their teams. I still have friends in Ireland.
Prior to the press conference, Xabi chatted with his old teammate Robbie Keane, who had spoken at Ireland’s press conference.
Cesc on finding his place on La Roja: the truth is that it was difficult for me to find my place on the national team, in comparison with other teams. It’s been seven years since I first came but I’ve always thought that my moment would come. Every time that I’ve been given minutes, I responded with all my effort. This is the first time that I’m beginning a big tournament as a starter, and I hope I can continue like this for a long time. I’m at the ideal age to begin assuming responsibilities. I hope to have opportunities to show what I can contribute to the national team.
Jordi Alba on yellow cards: it’s clear that being one card away from suspension will condition me. However, we will all help the group and try to be as clean as possible. If I have to give a foul, I’ll do it.
During his press conference, Vicente del Bosque gave a message of calm: “I don’t have enemies. And if I do, I don’t know them. I know how these things develop and I know that they’re only football debates. I’m not new to football, I already know these things. Each one has given his opinion, but I’m the one who makes the decisions. The rest are only opinions.” He also said the team’s morale is intact, and that before games, he doesn’t give out his line-ups or discuss changes, though he did say he could repeat the same starting XI if he wanted to and that he’s already decided on who those players are.
Stats and records.
– the Republic of Ireland is the team Spain has faced the fourth most number of times in history, after Portugal, France and Italy. The record for the 24 games is 13-7-4. The 13 wins makes Ireland the national team Spain has beaten the third most number of times.
– Spain has never lost to Ireland in qualifiers or the final phase of the Eurocopa: four wins and two ties.
– Spain has played 15 consecutive official games without losing, the best streak in Europe.
– Spain has not tied two games in a row during the past eight years; the last time was the 1-1 against Scotland on Sept. 3, 2004, which was followed by the 1-1 against Bosnia on Sept. 8, 2004. The last time that Spain lost after tying a game was also in 2004: 1-1 against Greece, then 0-1 against Portugal in the Eurocopa.
– the probability of moving on from the group phase (of four teams) after collecting only one point in two matches is 18 percent. If Spain ties against Ireland, the probability increases to 46 percent.
– if Fernando Torres scores today, he will tie Fernando Hierro as the team’s third top goalscorer, with 29. Iker and Fernando could play in their 10th Eurocopa game today, tying them with Rafael Gordillo for most number of games played in a Eurocopa by a Spanish player.
PF Juan Mata tweeted this photo yesterday, writing, “the ’11’ with the hair of the ‘2.’ He has confidence in me,” and adding the hashtag “Negredo, you don’t know what you did.” Hopefully Alvarito did not end up with another scar on his head, no?
Hyundai made this video with Iker talking about his time with the national team. He also says he believes his hands are of average size, and that he has thin fingers.
David Silva was the latest player to speak with Adidas. The questions have gotten a bit more boring, so maybe they should bring back the two-player format like with Iker and Xavi, and have them quiz each other (Fernando & Javi (!!!)!). The only interesting things (in my opinion) that were said were that David had spent his day off resting and with the family that had traveled to see him and with his teammates, and that red colored shirts (La Roja) are his favorite ones out of all the colors he’s worn.
Watch out for David’s right leg start jiggling near the very end.
After the training session on Tuesday, Iker took the time to meet with some of the boys and girls from a local football school. The children gave Iker a Spanish flag that they had all signed, as well as a framed group photo. In return, they got to take photos with el capi.