day 33 – all set for France!
June 22, 2012.
Well, the Eurocopa quarterfinal game between Spain and France is upon us, and hopefully it will be as epic as it was four years ago, although not as nerve-wracking! This game will also be Xabi Alonso’s 100th game with La Roja (since I think we can safely assume that he will start the game). He played his first game with the Spanish national team on April 30, 2003, in Madrid and against Ecuador; Spain won that game 4-0.
Love the positioning!
Records, data & facts.
Courtesy of Mr. Chip over at AS.
Xabi Alonso will be the fifth Spaniard to reach 100 caps, after Iker (134), Zubi (126), Xavi (112) and Raúl (102). None of these four players lost their 100th game with Spain (Iker, Zubi and Xavi won, Raúl tied). Xabi will also be the 226th player in the history of football to reach 100 games with his country and the third one to do it at this Eurocopa, after Ireland’s Damien Duff and Germany’s Lukas Podolski.
In the club of 100, Xabi Alonso will be, starting from today, the one with the best victory percentage (78 percent). He’s followed by Xavi (76 percent) and Iker (73 percent). The first non-Spaniard on the list is Zizou (69 percent).
Sergio Ramos still has one year to become the youngest European player to reach 100 games with his national team. At the moment, Lukas Podolski holds the record, which he set at the age of 27 years and 13 days.
France is the rival that has eliminated Spain from the Eurocopa and the World Cup in the elimination round the most number of times (1984, 2000 and 2006).
Iker Casillas has not allowed a goal in 690 minutes in the elimination round of the Eurocopa or World Cup (seven games, including two that went into overtime), which is the best ever record for a goalkeeper. The last goal that was scored on him in an elimination game was the one that Zidane scored in the 2006 World Cup. Since then, neither Italy (including overtime), Russia, Germany (twice), Portugal, Paraguay nor the Netherlands (including overtime) has been able to slip one past him.
The last two eliminations of Spain against France had a common denominator: an Italian referee. Collina was in charge of the game in 2000 in Bruges and Rosetti in 2006 in Hannover. Today, Rizzoli is in charge.
The team left Gniewino a little after eight in the morning, to head to the airport in Gdansk. From there, they flew to Donetsk, arriving around one in the afternoon. Pedro Cortés was the one responsible for accepting the bread and salt welcoming gift on the tarmac (it was carried into the hotel later on, so I assume it was eaten at some point). From the airport, they took a bus to the Hotel Center Victoria, which is located very close to Donbass Arena, as you could see by some of the photos the boys tweeted.
The training session.
No clues as to the line-up were given in the part of the training session that we could see, as we only saw the boys warm up and do the rondos.
Here’s a little Javi (!!!) because we haven’t seen enough of him in this Eurocopa (and I don’t mean in games, since I wouldn’t want to question VDB, I mean in general).
The press conferences.
Sergio Ramos, Sergio Busquets and PF Juan Mata spoke to the press (so we had two Sergios, two players with García as a last name, plus Busquets’ maternal last name, Burgos, is where PF was born).
Sergio on Karim Benzema: I’ve spoken with Karim Benzema, we have a great relationship and we’re in contact via mobile phone. Perhaps he didn’t have a good start as he hasn’t scored, but he’s a forward who works hard and makes a difference, and any moment where you lose your concentration, he’ll score on you. We hope he won’t have a good day tomorrow because he could cause us pain.
Sergio Ramos on the changes since the 2006 World Cup: a lot of time has passed, that was a team that was just beginning to take shape, with new players, without experience on the world level, and maturity and experience are important for World Cups and Eurocopas. You have to try and continue with the same playing philosophy and respect all the rivals. You have to try and do things well because when Spain does things well, it’s difficult for things to go poorly.
Sergio Ramos on playing with Piqué: Piqué and I are a young pair and our understanding of each other is getting better little by little, as that comes with games played together. The synchronization is already improving and a small evolution has been evident since the first game. Piqué is a fantastic centerback and we can understand each other to perfection.
Sergio Ramos on the problems between the Madrid and Barça players: speaking of a crisis in the national team is a mistake, what we have defended during this year is one thing and defending the national team is another. There are no wounds and the objective of the national team is to win tomorrow.
Sergio Busquets on the same thing: everything has been forgotten, things were resolved and now we’re all united to achieve the same objective. We defend the same colors and we left everything in the past in the past. [I can’t believe there are still people hung up on this.]
Juan Mata on not getting minutes: here, there are 23 players who usually play on our teams. It’s difficult because only 11 can play and there are only three changes. I’m doing what is within my control, which is training as best as I can and waiting for my opportunity. I have a lot of desire to play, just like all of my teammates who haven’t participated yet. We are patient and we know that the important thing is the team and to pass on to the next round.
During his press conference, Vicente del Bosque admitted that “we still have some doubts and there is an internal debate as to the line-up. Fàbregas is one of the options that we’re considering. He’s a great footballer and he can play perfectly well in different positions. With that said, I won’t innovate anything and we’ll use the players who are in the best conditions.” I am confident that whatever decisions he makes will be the correct ones.
In an interview with EFE, Iker had the following (honest and amusing) things to say:
on the four-year anniversary (June 22) of the day that changed the history of the national team, the penalties against Italy in the 2008 Eurocopa: what memories! It was a liberation, the moment in which you feel that a weight has been lifted off your shoulders. What we experienced was key to allow us to begin winning titles with the senior national team. I believe that if we hadn’t made it past this penalty round against Italy, nothing that we experienced afterward would have occurred.
on always making key plays and then trying to hide from the spotlight: it’s really not out of modesty, since you know what you did, but I’ve been the goalkeeper of Spain and Real Madrid for many years, and you have to always know when to use prudence and humility, which is constantly. I don’t like to be talked about, not good things and not bad things.
on being called a saint: I view it with affection. At least I’m called a saint and not tuercebotas (someone who is clumsy and unimportant). Since it’s said with affection, I’m grateful for it, but I’m not a saint in any way, please.
on the last time he cried because of the national team: luckily, the last time I cried was out of joy, in the 2010 World Cup.
on the criticism being thrown at VDB: you know what’s happening? Since there’s nothing to be said about Real Madrid and Barcelona now, everything is centered on the Eurocopa. It’s Vicente’s turn to be spoken about, whether he’ll put a nine, three defenders or five. Every day, something needs to be debated. The important thing is that on the inside, we’re happy with the work of the míster and he has the final say when it comes to deciding on the team, for good or for bad. Some will like it, others won’t. At the end of the day, there are many “coaches” in this country but only one with the power to make decisions. It’s him and no one else.
on players reaching 100 games with Spain: I believe it’s important for Spanish football. A few years ago, it was unthinkable. There had only been one player who had surpassed 100 games, Zubizarreta. Then came Raúl. Later on, it was me and now there’s a generation that has played a long time with the team, including Xavi, Puyol, Xabi Alonso, el niño Torres, Sergio. But if there’s anyone with the option to get as far as possible, even though many are talking about me, it’s Sergio. He’s played so many games at a young age and if it’s up to him, if he takes care of himself and maintains his aspirations, he’ll possibly become the most capped player in Spanish history.
on who he put for the final in the porra: Spain-Portugal, which can’t happen anymore.
Meanwhile, Andrés Iniesta spoke to El País.
on the criticism Del Bosque has received: it does hurt, because it’s unjust. Del Bosque is defending a style that made us champions and that is not reprehensible. He can put this player or that one, but the idea of play is always similar. We can’t play another way, because we don’t know how. With this style, we won the Eurocopa and the World Cup. I don’t know why there is so much doubt with the national team now.
on the six years since Spain was eliminated by France in the 2006 world Cup: I’ve changed a lot. I’m 28 years old, with more experience, more responsibility in games… yes, I suppose that I’m a different player, although it’s just for that, because that’s what experience gives you.
on changes on the personal level: I’ve definitely changed on the personal level. Now I’m much happier. When Anna was pregnant, I thought many times what I would feel when I became a father. And being a father has brought me joy. On a personal level, I feel great.
on the crisis: of course it affects me, I’m not immune to the problems around me. You see that the bakery on the corner has closed, that a friend has been laid off… society is losing values in an obvious way. You have a daughter and it scares you to think about the world that we’re leaving to our children… it’s not only an economic problem anymore. Behind that, there are personal dramas that you can’t ignore and that worry me, of course they worry me.
Iniesta was also asked if he’s related to Robe Iniesta. He responds, “the one from Extremoduro? I don’t think so, but I’ll have to ask my father.”
Andrés also did Mediaset’s “one minute without football” test. Define yourself. A simple person, friend of my friends, someone who likes to do things well, detail-oriented and very, very demanding with myself. How do you spend your free time? Sleeping, resting and finishing preparations for my upcoming wedding, I have to do the seating arrangements. What kind of music do you listen to? All types, but I really like Estopa. A movie: any starring Denzel Washington. What is the risk premium? You got me… I don’t believe it’s something good. Tell me something about Poland. There are many Polish people, no? Who do you call at night? My family, my girlfriend, I try to see my daughter. The last compliment you received: my girlfriend will kill me, but I usually receive a lot… the last one was about how handsome I am. Give Rajoy a piece of advice. I don’t think there’s many pieces of advice I can give, they are always trying to do the best they can. Why are we going to win this Eurocopa? It will be because we’re the best.
Gerard Piqué posted this video of him and Cesc playing ping pong. He asked who we thought was the winner. I’m going with Gerard, because I don’t think he would have posted the video unless he won.
Speaking of Piqué, he also tweeted about this article that tells the story of a group of friends from Granada and his father Joan. Here’s how the story went. A group of friends traveled from Granada to Poland for the bachelor party of their friend, Juanjo. They prepared a surprise: tickets to watch Spain’s first game in the Eurocopa. The problem was, according to “Lolo” Durán, that they only had eight tickets for 11 people. Of the eight tickets, four were the cheapest ones, while the other four were for better seats. Two members out of the group decided not to watch the game, as they couldn’t afford it, so that left one person who wouldn’t be able to watch the game. So, they decided that whoever drew the lowest card out of a deck of card three times would be the one with bad luck. It so happened that Nacho, the friend who had organized the entire trip and the one who always made sure everyone was having a good time, drew the lowest card all three times. His friends decided that wasn’t fair, so they tried to see if they could buy another ticket from one of those resellers. Then they tried selling one of the good tickets for two bad ones.
By then, it was around 17:00. They went to wait in line, and it so happened that the area that they were waiting in was near the VIP zone. A man passed by, and so they shouted out, just out of habit, “do you have any tickets? We don’t have enough for everyone.” And the man responded, “today’s your lucky day. Here are five tickets, my son got a bunch, I’m the father of Gerard Piqué.” And seeing that they were in the presence of someone famous, the group of friends began hugging him and shouting “thank you!” Joan, a bit overwhelmed, disentangled himself and left. The friends continued celebrating, and then went to watch the game alongside the families and wives of the players, including Shakira.
What a grand gesture!
Raúl Albiol was the latest guest on the Adidas set. He told them that his best moment with La Roja was his debut and winning the two titles, and the worst was the injury he got during a training session in the World Cup, which prevented him from playing. And when it came time for the quiz, El Chori aced both questions, and even provided more information than was asked! And they weren’t easy questions either!