all set for Finland!
Spain takes on Finland tonight (20:30h) in its sixth (out of eight) qualifier for the 2014 World Cup. At present, Spain leads Group I with 11 points, followed closely by France with 10 points (France will play Georgia tonight).
The team met up at the Ciudad de Fútbol on Tuesday, traveled to Helsinki on Wednesday and prepared for the game in Finland on Thursday.
At Las Rozas, the players showed once again that they collectively own the worst denim collection in probably the entire world. From Sevilla to Manchester, Jesús Navas and Álvaro Negredo refused to part with their very short denim shorts. Jesús’ were particularly hard on the eyes due to those lime green cuffs (if you’ve been following this blog for a while, you know how much I abhor cuffed denim shorts).
Andrés Iniesta didn’t fare much better, showing up in baggy, ripped shorts. And Villa’s jeans? All I can say is, why?
You know it’s bad when Iker and Sergio Ramos aren’t mentioned at all in the worst dressed section.
Raúl Albiol also celebrated his birthday during this concentración.
Meanwhile, Mr. Chip and AS shared these facts, anecdotes and data about the Spain-Finland match-up.
One loss: Spain has played Finland seven times, and holds a record of 4-2-1. On Finnish soil, the record is 1-1-1 (1-2 in Tampere on June 2, 1994; 0-0 in Helsinki on Oct. 17, 2007; and 2-0 in Helsinki on June 25, 1969).
Strong on the road: Spain has won eight consecutive away World Cup qualifiers, from the 1-1 in Slovakia in the 2006 World Cup qualifier playoffs. This is the second best streak in the history of World Cup qualifiers, only behind the Netherlands’ current 11-game streak.
The goal is a fort: Spain has not received a goal in the three games it has played away during this qualifying round (Georgia, Belarus, France), and with one more game, it will tie the record, which dates back to the Luis Aragonés era: 0-0 in Lithuania, 0-0 in Serbia, 0-2 in Belgium and 0-6 in San Marino. Only two national teams currently have longer streaks in World Cup qualifiers: Montenegro (4) and Switzerland (4). The all-time record is held by Brazil, six games between 1969 and 1981.
The month of September: Spain has won 10 of its last 11 games in September. The only exception is the 1-4 loss to Argentina, a friendly. In fact, Spain has only lost three official games in the month of September in its history: the 0-2 against Ireland in 1992, the 2-3 against Cyprus in 1999 and the 2-3 against North Ireland in 2007.
212 minutes: Spain has not scored a goal in official games in 212 minutes. The last goal was scored by Jordi Alba against Nigeria during the Confecup. This is the worst streak for La Roja in the past 10 years, from the drought of 239 minutes that ended with Raúl’s goal against Ukraine on Sept. 10, 2003. Spain has not been unable to score for three consecutive official games in more than 20 years (0-0 against Latvia, North Ireland and Ireland between September and November of 1992).
Villa’s teams: David Villa will become the third player to represent four or more different clubs as an international player: Zaragoza, Valencia, Barcelona and Atlético. The others are Julio Salinas (Athletic, Atlético, Barcelona, Depor, Sporting) and Morientes (Madrid, Monaco, Liverpool, Valencia). If he scores, el Guaje will be the sixth player to score representing three or more teams (he didn’t score for Spain as a Zaragoza player) after Salinas (Athletic, Atlético, Barcelona, Depor), Morientes (Madrid, Monaco, Liverpool, Valencia), Vantolrá (Espanyol, Sevilla and Barcelona), Torres (Atlético, Liverpool, Chelsea) and Cazorla (Villarreal, Málaga, Arsenal).
Xavi, second in caps: if Xavi plays, he will move past Zubizarreta’s 126 caps and become the second most capped player in Spain’s history. Only Iker is ahead of him.
Three straight: Víctor Valdés could play three consecutive World Cup qualifiers, as he had been in goal during the games against Finland in Gijón and against France in Paris. The last goalkeeper not named Iker Casillas to do this with Spain was Santi Cañizares, between June and September 2001.
Warrior: Sergio Ramos has played in all of Spain’s last 33 games, starting 30 and coming off the bench for three. He hasn’t missed a game since the encounter against Italy in Bari on Aug. 10, 2011. Only four players have longer streaks: Zubizarreta (86), Gordillo (51), Arconada (46) and Míchel (36).
As for La Rojita, they set the bar very high by beating Austria 6-2 in their first qualifier for the 2015 Euro (which also leads to the Olympics). Álvaro Morata (yay!!!!) scored four goals, and Dani Carvajal and Jesé Rodríguez each scored one (Dani also scored one of Austria’s goals). The boys showed that they play wonderfully together, even though the team has been renewed and generations have been mixed.
Other notes: Jesé and Fernando Pacheco made their debuts with the U-21 team during this game. La Rojita’s unbeaten streak now stands at 27. The last loss was in 2009, against the Netherlands. Julen Lopetegui’s record with the U-21 team has improved to 12-1-0. Álvaro Morata has scored eight goals in six games with the U-21 team. As such, he has a good chance of breaking the all-time record, held by Rodrigo, who scored 15 goals in 12 games. Morata is currently tied with Raúl and one behind Adrián López.
La Rojita will take on Albania in Logroño on Tuesday in its next qualifier.
And check out this video, taken by Sergi Roberto, of Óliver Torres and Javier Manquillo singing the Cola Cao song while standing on chairs, which was apparently an initiation rite.
The little ones have been very generous with photos from their time together.