memories of South Africa

Spain has returned to Soccer City (now FNB Stadium) for the first time since winning the World Cup there on July 11, 2010.  La Roja will play South Africa in a friendly tonight at 20h.  Of the 23 players who were crowned champions with Spain on that unforgettable night, 15 have traveled with the team for this trip, and according to prognostics, VDB will try and play as many of them tonight as possible.  There are six more (Puyol, Piqué, Xavi, Cesc, Torres, Silva) who could make the final list for Brazil.  Only two (Capdevila, Marchena) no longer figure in VDB’s plans.

Just being back in South Africa brought back many memories for our team.

A trip down memory lane.

Here is a compilation of the many interviews in recent days where our players were asked to look back and reflect on this time in South Africa.

The World Cup looks so small!

The following is from this El Mundo article, press conferences and other interviews, and is accompanied by photos from this trip to Africa.

Toni Grande: what do I remember?  ¡Joder!  The silence on the bus.  That day, there was no music or anything.  It was the same as the day we played Chile, but much worse.

VDB: there really was a lot of tension.

VDB has signed a contract extension through 2016!  Hooray!

Carlos Marchena: in the hotel that morning, we were all looking for a bit of affection, a pat on the back.  No one wanted to be alone, so we spent the entire day seeking support from each other, because we were all so nervous inside.  There were no card games, no Play because the only thing we were looking to do was not be alone.  We didn’t need to talk to each other, but we needed the company.

After the game, I went to a small room that was next to the locker room.  The locker room was enormous, I saw many people there and so I shut myself in the small room.  I cried as much as I wanted to and a bit more.  I spoke with my mother and I told her, I think we won, no?  And I was trying to hold back the tears but she began crying.  And I said, mamá, don’t encourage me.  And we ended up not saying anything, only crying. 

David Villa: I think the worst thing was going back to the rooms for the siesta, because I don’t know if any of us could fall asleep.  I of course couldn’t [apparently Gerard Piqué was the only one who managed to fall asleep].

Pedro Rodríguez: I was very nervous.  I spoke with my friends and family on the phone, with my parents… I was trying to distract myself, but I think it made things worse.

Pepe Reina: I’ve said it many times, I was scared shitless.  It was the final of the World Cup.

Fernando Llorente: it was a special day, a different one, you could see it in everyone, you had this responsibility because you knew this could be a day unlike any other in your career.

Paloma Antoranz: I remember that Iniesta was obsessed with getting a piece of the field.  But they had blocked access to it, so we were looking like crazy for someone from FIFA to accompany us and let us through.  We managed to do so, and Andrés went out, and running behind him like an arrow was Piqué, who wanted a piece of the net.  I had to go back to the locker room to get a pair of scissors.  It was crazy.

Joan Capdevila: it appears to have been real (laughs).  I was lucky enough to be one of the 23, and one of the starters in the final of the World Cup.  I was the only one on the starting XI who didn’t play for Real Madrid or Barcelona.

On the bus, you couldn’t even hear anyone breathing.  It was impressive.  I got goosebumps when I saw the stadium all lit up.  I couldn’t breathe and I wanted to cry out of emotion.  Once inside, we saw the full stadium from the tunnel.  Víctor Valdés sat next to me in the locker room.  I always asked him for advice, I don’t know why.  Who to watch, how to play… that calmed me down, gave me confidence.  That day, I asked him how he saw things.  But I don’t remember what he said, I was so nervous.  Nevertheless, it calmed me down.

I will always remember the first time I touched the cup.  As we were walking up to receive our medals, I took it in both hands and kissed it, as if we were on a blind date.  Mission accomplished.  There are no words to describe how I felt.  Seeing Iker Casillas cry was also something that impacted me, because he was the captain.  I took a photo with him and his eyes were so glassy.

Juan Mata: I think those were the fastest 100 meters I’ve run in my life [to celebrate the goal].

Sergio Ramos: my lasting memory is Andrés’ goal and when the final whistle blew.  In that moment, I felt very proud of being Spanish and for defending my country.  I have a small replica of the World Cup trophy and photos at home.  We didn’t win the neighborhood championship, we won a World Cup and that’s something to be proud of for the rest of your life.

Javi Martínez (at Cope and Onda Cero): we were at home in Potchefstroom, but unfortunately we won’t be able to go back this time.  We made history in this country and it will be special for us to return; we’re excited about that.  The vuvuzelas were tough, I spent a lot of time on the bench, and when you’re playing, you don’t even notice them or hear them but on the bench you do.  They are a bit annoying.

We are once again staying at the Da Vinci Hotel, and I think we’re in the same rooms as we were three years ago.  It’s great to re-live this, being at the same hotel, the same field.  On the day of the final, during the bus trip to the stadium, no one talked, everyone had their headphones and their music, everyone was nervous and there was a lot of tension.

Iker’s snippets come from his press conference, an interview with El País, and Iker Casillas World (surely he could have come up with a better name for his communities?  Iker’s Cronies, for one).

Iker Casillas: the image of the World Cup for me is not the kiss, but Iniesta’s goal!  And everything that happened afterwards was unforgettable, the absolute joy when the referee blew the whistle, the hug with Puyi, with the entire team, receiving the trophy, the parade through Madrid… nothing will ever beat that.

It’s a pity that I don’t remember what it was like seeing that goal scored, which was very clear, because the video of it erases the image.  I remember the sensations, of thinking that whoever scored would win the game.  I knew that any mistake could be decisive.  It was a fast play and I thought it wouldn’t end in anything, because we were very much out of position.  The six in the back were thinking of maintaining their positions so that we wouldn’t allow a goal.  We were thinking we would let the four in the front do the fighting.  When I saw the ball fall to Andrés, I thought “now!”  I usually look at the linesman to confirm whether it’s a goal or not and when I saw him run, I knew that we were champions.

I remember the 50 or so days we spent together.  It’s not easy for 23 people to live together and get along, because the tediousness of the day-to-day gets to you.  The truth is the Internet was a big help, because you could see how supportive everyone was.  And afterward, you could see that Spain was happy, that people were proud of being Spanish.

The 19th will be a day of memories and special sensations since I’m going back to Soccer City.  This stadium is very important for me and I imagine for all Spaniards, especially those who love football.  Some of the most important moments of my life took place there and I was lucky that many of my lifelong friends and fans were able to accompany me on that day that we became champions of the world.

I don’t know how to describe with words how I felt when I saw this dream come true, it gives me goosebumps just remembering it.  When I think about South Africa, about the World Cup, thousands of images go through my mind, of wins, my friends, my family, the fans…  We did it!  And we did it together.  The title signifies the effort of a group of friends who believed they could do it, of a team and its fans.

Andrés Iniesta spoke at a press conference, and also to Cuatro.  He also shared a photo he took of that goal.

Andrés Iniesta: it’s obvious that Soccer City cannot be like any other stadium for me, I really want to go back and step on the field, go back to where I scored the goal and had once-in-a-lifetime experiences.  It still makes me emotional to remember those moments… the goal was the work of everyone and I’m privileged to have scored.

There are many unforgettable moments from the World Cup, in addition to the moment when Iker lifted the trophy, there was the moment when I took off my shirt to show the dedication to Dani, that’s a special moment for me.  I had made the shirt to dedicate the title to him if we won, so that I could show it at the end of the game.  Everything turned out perfectly.

Returning to such a magical place three years later is really wonderful.

We also had this exchange during the Sergio Ramos-David Villa press conference.

Question: do you all have any desire to hear a vuvuzela again?

Sergio: no.

Villa: it was something that was constant during the entire time of the World Cup…

Sergio: a constant pain…

Villa: we remember with humor all the noise that those vuvuzelas made.

Those who weren’t there.

Marca took a different approach and had the eight players on the current team who weren’t in South Africa recall how they spent the night of July 11, 2010.

Santi Cazorla: I watched the game at home with my father-in-law.  I suffered a lot.  The joy I felt when Andrés scored was immense.  As soon as it ended, I started sending messages to my teammates.  I had been in contact with them during the entire tournament.  I couldn’t celebrate a lot because the next day I had a training session.  I drank to the victory with my father-in-law and went to sleep.

Marc Bartra: I watched the final with my family in my hometown, Sant Jaume dels Domenys.  It was very exciting, with a lot of suffering and a great joy when Andrés scored the goal.

Alberto Moreno: I was on a camping trip in Huelva with my friends.  I had a terrible time of it, I was so nervous I nearly died.  Then Andrés appeared; he’s a magician with the ball.  As soon as the game ended, we went to the beach to jump in the water and scream that we were champions of the world.  Iniesta is a 10 as a person.  He’s simple, tranquil, humble, he does his own thing and no one has a problem with him.  He’s a phenomenon and an example for everyone.

Álvaro Negredo: I watched the game in Sevilla because the pre-season had already started.  I was at a friend’s house.  It was agony for how the game unfolded.  When Andrés scored, I shouted really loudly.  The goal was liberating, a long play that we can all recall from memory.  We couldn’t celebrate because we had to train the next day, but we did have dinner and beers when watching the game.  Andrés is a reference, he has an incredible quality and he’s humble.  Playing with him is a dream come true.

Koke Resurrección: I’ll never forget it.  We had just begun the concentración for the U-19 Euro in France.  We went crazy celebrating the goal.  We didn’t speak of anything else in the following practices.  Andrés is a god to all Spaniards.

Juanfran Torres: I don’t usually suffer a lot, I watched and celebrated the final with my friends in Crevillente.  For me, Andrés is a friend and one of the best players in history.

Nacho Monreal: I watched the final with friends in Pamplona.  That was the game where I suffered the most.  I had been quite nervous during the previous games, but I felt for sure that we were going to win, sooner or later.  It was a tough game.  Iniesta’s goal brought so much joy to us.  There were about 20 of us and we began to jump and shout like crazy.  The moment deserved that.

Íñigo Martínez: I watched the game with friends in Ondarroa.  It was a tense game, very nerve-wracking, but I believe everyone who likes football enjoyed watching Spain play. 

Statistics, records, anecdotes.

Via Mr. Chip and AS.

Fourth time: Spain has played South Africa three times and has won each time: 3-2 in the group phase of the 2002 World Cup, 2-0 in the group phase of the 2009 Confecup and 3-2 in the third place game of that tournament.  Spain has played African nations 12 times, with a record of 11-1.

In Africa: Spain has played 14 games in Africa – one in Morocco, 12 in South Africa and one in Equatorial Guinea.  The record stands at 12-2 (the losses are against the U.S. and Switzerland, in 2009 and 2010 in South Africa, respectively).  Johannesburg is set to become the African city where Spain has played the most number of times (four, twice in Ellis Park and twice in Soccer City).

Sergio Ramos: Sergio Ramos has played in all of Spain’s last 38 games, and Iniesta has played in the last 29.  The record for most consecutive games played in La Roja’s history is held by Zubizarreta with 86.  He’s followed by Gordillo (51), Arconada (46), Sergio Ramos (38 and counting), Míchel (36), Etxeberría (32), Di Stéfano (31), Camacho (31), Iniesta (29 and counting), and Fernando Torres (38).

The bandage covers a little wound from a run-in with a window.

61st place: South Africa is currently ranked 61st by FIFA.  Only four countries with an equal or worse ranking have beaten Spain: Croatia (125th, 1994), Nigeria (74th, 1998), Cyprus (80th, 1998) and Northern Ireland (72nd, 2006).

Six games with two goals: Spain has scored exactly two goals in each of its last six games, something that has never happened before (between June and August 2010, Spain scored exactly one goal in five consecutive games).  Only one team has scored exactly two goals in six or more games, Wales between April 1927 and October 1929 (eight consecutive games).

Xabi Alonso: Xabi Alonso can move past Lothar Matthäus’s 85 international wins today.  If he does, he will be ranked sixth on the list of World Cup-winning players with most national team wins, after Casillas, Xavi, Thuram, Sergio Ramos and Cafú.  There are three Spaniards on the list of the top five players with most international wins: Casillas (111), Xavi (98), Ahmed Hassan (95), Thuram (94) and Sergio Ramos (90).

The game against Equatorial Guinea.

There’s not much to say about this game, other than it was very physical for a friendly, no?  Santi Cazorla and Juanfran Torres scored as Spain beat Equatorial Guinea 2-1 in Malabo.  This was Juanfran’s first goal with La Roja.

Marc Bartra also made his debut for La Roja, becoming the 38th player to debut under Vicente del Bosque.

The Equatorial Guinean fans get a 10 though.  Look at how they supported the team, like it was their own!

And check out how they fought over Sergio’s shirt at the practice session (during which both Sergio and Xabi accidentally swallowed mosquitoes), and Andrés Iniesta’s shorts after the game.

Other things.

Spain and Adidas presented the shirt for the 2014 World Cup on Nov. 13 (plus the new training and travel outfits), and debuted the all-red kit three days later against Equatorial Guinea.

The shirt is of course red, with gold accents.  The red color has always been synonymous with the national team, and apparently represents the strength of the bull and the blood that is spilt.  The gold color represents the golden age that Spanish football is currently in.

I really like the goalkeepers’ shirt, which also has the gold accents.

The pocha team is back for this concentración, with Pepe posting this lovely photo of the players.  Iker added via Twitter (he just joined) that “Floris has no idea, Pepe learned yesterday, Guaje is getting there, Achicoria Monreal is my enemy!!”

Sergio has been practicing his goalkeeping moves after the training sessions are over.  Watch this video to see Xabi take shots against Sergio, Xabi posing and being all boss and ordering Víctor Valdés to toss his gloves over for Sergio’s use, and Sergio’s attempts to block shots.

La Rojita.

La Rojita has been playing very well in its 2015 Euro qualifiers, beating Bosnia 6-1 and then Albania 2-0 to go 6-0 in its last six games.  In the first game, the goalscorers were Oliver Torres (2), Álvaro Morata, Iker Muniain and Gerard Deulofeu, plus a Bosnian own goal.  In the second game, the goalscorers were Muniain and Deulo.  The victory was dedicated to Sergi Gómez’ grandmother and Iker Muniain’s grandfather, both of whom had passed away shortly before the game.  There was also a moment of silence dedicated to them prior to the start of the game.

Iker Muniain also set a record with the U-21 team after playing in his 27th game in this category, tying him for most games with Santi Denia and David de Gea.  He has been playing for the U-21 team for two and a half years after debuting at the age of 18 in February 2011, and has already won two U-21 Euros (2011, 2013) and could win a third, which would set a new record.  Like the senior team, the U-21 team is also captained by an Iker, and Julen Lopetegui has continued to call him up even though he has already debuted with the senior team (in February 2012 against Venezuela – I almost wrote Vuvuzela).

La Rojita won’t get back together until March next year, when the team takes on Germany in a friendly.  After that, there will be qualifiers against Hungary on Sept. 4 and against Austria on Sept. 8.

The team has also been extremely generous with sharing adorable photos with us.  Here’s a sampling (with an emphasis on shirtless photos) from the past week.

Posted on November 19, 2013, in campeones, interviews, la rojita, players, team and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. As a fellow Madridista, I really wish you were still updating us on Los Blancos. Nevertheless, this blog is just as amazing so thank you!! :)

  2. Thanks again Una for all the great memories! I never tire of all the insight and memories from the players. And Capdevila!! Too bad the boys couldn’t win in South Africa and bring back some more! And animo Victor Valdes!

  3. Can I ask why Fernando wasn’t called up for this match? Was it VDB’s decision or is he injured?

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