all set for Uruguay!
Spain takes on Uruguay tonight in Doha, Qatar (19h)! This game will most likely be Carles Puyol’s 100th, which will come 12 years after his debut on Nov. 15, 2000, and which will make him the seventh Spaniard to reach that number (after Iker, Zubi, Xavi, Xabi, Raúl and Fernando Torres).
The concentración for the first game of 2013 began on Monday morning at Barajas. The destination was Doha, Qatar, where Spain will face Uruguay in a preparatory friendly for the upcoming Confederations Cup, as Uruguay qualified as the Copa América champion and was drawn into the same group as Spain (along with Tahiti and the African champion, whom we will know in a few days). The proceeds from this game will benefit the Association of Spanish Footballers. As for Vicente del Bosque, he will coach his 68th game in Doha, tying him with Ladislao Kubala for most number of games coached. Curiously enough, Kubala’s 68th game was also VDB’s last one with the national team (though he didn’t play).
After a seven-hour flight, the team landed in Doha. They then headed to their hotel, the Torch Doha. A light stretching session, a press conference and a meet and greet with Iberdrola were the rest of the items on Monday’s agenda. During the press conference, Isco revealed that he had found out about the call up via a WhatsApp message from his mother: “I found out about the call up from my mother, who sent me a WhatsApp message. It caught me a bit by surprise.” Meanwhile, César Azpilicueta said that he was very happy to be sharing this experience with his former Osasuna teammate, Nacho Monreal. In an interview with El País, Dave said that “one day I called him to congratulate him on signing for Arsenal, and the next day he called me to congratulate me [for getting called up].”
After that, Iberdrola’s president Ignacio Galán presented the players and coaching staff with Bulgari watches to congratulate them on winning the 2012 Eurocopa. I wonder if this was Sergio’s doing once again? He’s easily distracted by shiny things, isn’t he?
On Tuesday, Raúl, his five kids and Fernando Hierro all paid a visit to the team. Raúl’s kids entered wearing normal shirts, and left wearing La Roja shirts personalized with their names. They spent more than one hour with Vicente del Bosque and the players. Raúl is currently living in Doha while playing for Al Sadd, while Fernando was on a trip there. I adore this picture Sergio shared of him and Rulo.
Maria looks exactly like her brothers did when they were small!
VDB called Raúl’s visit an honor, while Álvaro Negredo said during his press conference that “Raúl has been everything for the national team. I met him while playing for Real Madrid and it’s an honor to receive his visit.” Álvaro also said of Carles Puyol, “he’s a very important player for the national team. It would be great if he could get to 100 games, not many people have gotten there, especially after overcoming so many injuries like he has.” Meanwhile, Mario Suárez said, “it’s an honor and a dream to be here. It’s not easy to be part of the national team, you have to do things well.” With regards to Puyol, he said, “he’s a great footballer and he deserves to get to this number [100 games].”
The only training session was held at Khalifa Stadium in the afternoon. Watching the training session were the team’s second, fourth and fifth all-time leading goalscorers: Raúl, Fernando Hierro and Fernando Morientes, respectively. El Moro was in Doha as coach of Real Madrid’s Juvenil B team, which was playing a tournament there. The three had dinner together afterward.
The day concluded with a private meet and greet with members of the Qatari royal family, as Qatar had paid two million euros to host this friendly match.
Meanwhile, the U-21 team played Belgium in a friendly in Mechelen. It concluded in a 1-1 draw, with Spain’s goal scored by Gerard Deulofeu.
Spain’s next match is on March 22 against Finland in Gijón.
Statistics, data and fun facts.
Courtesy AS and Mr. Chip, we now know the following:
Spain vs. Uruguay: the two teams have played eight times before (the 1950 and 1990 World Cups, plus six friendlies). Spain’s record is 3-5-0, with all three of the wins coming during friendlies played in Spain (Madrid, Oviedo, Gijón).
Continental champion: Spain takes on a reigning continental champion (Uruguay won the 2011 Copa América) for the 32nd time in its history. In the 31 previous encounters, La Roja has a record of 17-6-8. It lost the two last games to the U.S. in 2009 and Mexico in 2010.
Uruguay and world champions: Uruguay has faced a reigning world champion 17 times, coming away with a record of 4-5-8. However, it has never beaten a reigning world champion from Europe.
First time in Doha: Spain plays for the sixth time in Asia and first time in Doha. The five previous games in Asia took place during the 2002 World Cup in Japan and South Korea.
Unbeaten: Spain becomes the team with the longest unbeaten streak, 17, after Cote d’Ivoire was beaten in the quarterfinals of the Africa Cup of Nations. Next is North Korea at 13.
Del Bosque: he will tie Kubala today as the coach with the most number of games, 68. Since his debut against Denmark on Aug. 20, 2008, VDB has notched up a record of 56-5-6, with 167 goals scored (2.49 average) and 44 against (0.66). He is the only coach to have won the “triple crown” of European Cup (twice with Real Madrid), World Cup and Eurocopa.
No Iker: the last time Iker was not called up was on Aug. 22, 2007, when Spain beat Greece 3-2. From that point on, he has been present for 83 games.
Captain Puyol: Puyi will be the captain today, as Iker, Xavi, Xabi and Torres are absent. He previously wore the armband three times, but the last time was four years ago on Aug. 12, 2009 against Macedonia.
The Club of 100: Puyol will be the seventh player and the first defender to reach 100 caps after Zubi, Raúl, Iker, Xavi, Xabi and Torres. Only five countries are ahead of Spain in the number of players with 100 caps or over: the United States (11), Mexico (9), Egypt (8), South Korea (8) and Germany (8).
100th games: with the exception of Raúl (a tie against Iceland), the rest of the Spaniards in the Club of 100 won their 100th game. Xabi even scored two goals (against France in the last Eurocopa).
Club things: Spain could play with nine players from one club (Barcelona) for the first time in history. Spain had previously played eight times with eight Real Madrid players or eight Barcelona players. If César Azpilicueta debuts, he will be the first to do so while wearing the shirt of Chelsea. The other four that represented the club (Ferrer, Del Horno, Torres, Mata) had debuted before joining Chelsea. Nacho Monreal will be the first defender in the history of La Roja to have played for three different clubs (Osasuna, Málaga, Arsenal). Julio Salinas holds the record, having played for Spain as an Athletic, Atleti, Barcelona, Depor and Sporting player.
Isco and Mario Suárez: with Del Bosque, only five players have been called up without getting a debut: Amorebieta, Botía, De Gea, Montoya and Isco. If he debuts, he’ll be the sixth player from Málaga (the province) to play for La Roja after Chuzo, Migueli, Juanito, Esteban and Hierro. Mario Suárez will be Atleti’s fourth player to debut under Del Bosque after Adrián, Domínguez and Juanfran.
One more thing.
Also check out this adorable video of the children of the RFEF’s school congratulating VDB for winning the coach of the year award. I love the answers and the enthusiasm!
Here’s a brief transcript: the best coach is Vicente del Bosque. He coaches the best national team, he’s the best. He deserves it. He’s a very good person, and he’s very good at playing football and coaching. That’s why they gave him the award for best coach in the world. He deserves it very muuuuuuuuuuuch! When I grow up, I want him to be my coach. Because he’s the best coach in the world. Because he signed an autograph for me. He’s the perfect coach. He’s a great coach. Because he’s a good coach and I like him a lot. Because he’s Spanish and I also support Spain. Because I like how he coaches his players. He can teach everyone what he has taught his team. Congratulations! He deserves it. Congratulations!