all set for Italy!

Spain takes on Italy tonight in a friendly at the Vicente Calderón (Madrid) at 22h.  There are several things of note about this game.  It is the last time La Roja is together before the concentración for the World Cup begins on May 26, the game will serve as a tribute to the late and great Luis Aragonés and as the stage for the debut of the new black jerseys, and of course this will be the first time we see Diego Costa in the shirt of Spain.  All eyes have been on him the entire week, although I have to admit mine were focused on Azpi’s dimples instead!

The day to day.

The players began the concentración on Monday morning, and surprisingly, there were no really hideous outfits, not even from serial offenders Iker Casillas and Sergio Ramos.  The team filmed a series of spots for the team’s sponsors later that day (more on that below) and trained at Las Rozas.

Tuesday’s training session took place at the Calderón, and included a visit from World Cup mascot Fuleco the Armadillo.  Our boys were more than happy to pose with him.

And it looks like Diego Costa is fitting in just fine; he was seen chatting away to his new confidant, Sergio Ramos.  The other players also said that Diego is fitting in very well, and that he’s a bit timid.

As for the game, proceeds (expected to be about one million euros) will benefit the AFE, and be used to subsidize the boots the AFE provides for teams in the second and second B divisions.  Before the start of the game, the soprano Mariola Cantarero will sing Pietro Mascagni’s “Ave María” as a tribute to Luis Aragonés while the players stand at attention.  The RFEF has also prepared a giant shirt outside the stadium for fans to leave messages.


Iker Casillas shared this photo of him, Sergio Ramos, Cesc, Juanfran, Jordi Alba, Santi Cazorla, Koke, Álvaro Negredo and Pepe Reina watching former goalkeeper Santi Cañizares and his wife Mayte on the dance competition show “A Bailar” (although calling it dancing would be a stretch, since their routine seemed to consist mostly of strutting and posing).  Anyway, I want to know why Álvaro is wearing his club shirt and Pepe Reina a Knicks jersey.

The generous Iker also gave us these photos with Cazorlita and Chori in the locker room.

Filming spots.

As mentioned earlier, the players spent Monday divided into groups filming spots for the team’s sponsors, including Movistar, Pelayo, Iberdrola, Cruzcampo and Gillette (they also got a free lifetime supply of razors).

They also all posed with the new black shirt.

However, what I’m looking forward to the most is the video (and hopefully making of) of the song “Buena energía” (Good energy), which will be Spain’s World Cup anthem.  It looks like it will be a lot of fun!

Maldita Nerea (a great group) provides the singing, accompanied by Iker Casillas, Jordi Alba and César Azpilicueta on the tambourine (guess they weren’t trusted with any other instruments), Xavi Hernández on the drums and Diego Costa on the bongo.

Azpi said that Diego has the most rhythm, while Iker said that while he has tried his hand at singing before (I love that he was all nervous and sweating, and when Eva Amaral stopped singing, leaving Iker to go at it solo), this time he decided to leave the singing to those who know how.

By the way, the official fragrance of La Roja (really???) was presented several days ago.  It’s called “Piel del Toro” (skin of the bull) and apparently represents the values of the spirit of overcoming, triumph and ambition.  Okay then. 

Thank you Carles.

Your contributions to La Roja, especially that goal against Germany four years ago, will not be forgotten.  We will miss your heart, your leadership and your passion (and of course your hair).

For a good tribute, read the one that Gerard Piqué wrote on his Facebook page.  Here’s how it ends:

You were my guardian angel.

I know that I will miss our talks in the locker room, your advice and especially you giving us hell on the pitch. You are unique; a one-off. I find it amusing when they talk about signing “the new Puyol.”  They can look all they want, but they’ll never find it.

Xabi Alonso at France Football.

Here are some excerpts from an interview that Xabi did with France Football (translated from French to Spanish to English).

How does the national team manage to marry all the different styles of football?

What allows that to happen is the intrinsic quality of the players.  And, to be sincere, all of us think about it before putting ourselves at the service of the team.  No one wants to shine individually.  And that’s how we manage to put together the pieces of the puzzle.  It’s a base that allows for the integration of new players without any problems.

No one has forgotten the tensions in the clásicos.  How was it getting together afterward on the national team?

It was natural.  On the national team, we are teammates, but we also defend the colors of our clubs.  One doesn’t impede the other.

Would you change anything from those games?

No!  There was more tension than normal, but we managed to get over all of that.  I’m not going to speak to you because you kicked me during a Madrid-Barça?  Let’s be serious!  For me, what happens during a clásico stays there.  When we meet up with La Roja, it’s a different story.  Contrary to what some Spanish media outlets have reported, I maintain excellent relationships with Barça’s players.  For example, there’s Busquets, who shares the midfield with me.  I know his qualities well and he knows mine well.  In our clubs, we play more or less the same position, but on the national team, we give each other more liberty.  One covers the other.  Busi is very intelligent, very tactical and very competitive.  We really understand each other well.

Blast from the past.

Marca got 116 Spanish celebrities to think back to Minute 116 of the night that Spain won the World Cup.  Here are some of those memories.

Vicente del Bosque: I’ve told the story many times, but this is the memory I have.  I thought that there were still four minutes left, that the final wasn’t over yet.  I remember the coach of Croatia Bilic celebrating the goal in the 2008 Eurocopa when there was still time and Turkey tied the game and eliminated them in the end.

Pau Gasol: I was in the stands, in a suit.  I couldn’t wear a scarf.  I was with Silvia, my girlfriend.  I remember the goal for the rush it produced, an indescribable moment of euphoria.  I think I hugged Silvia, but I don’t remember.  As a spectator, not a protagonist, it was the greatest moment of euphoria I’ve ever had.

Jesús Navas: I know from memory everything that happened from the moment that Puyol recovered the ball in our area.  He gave me the ball on the wing.  I needed to get to the other half of the field.  I began running with the ball, without stopping.  I could have stopped when they grabbed me, but I had to keep on going.  I saw myself surrounded by the Dutch players, and I passed the ball to Andrés and he flicked it with his heel to Cesc.  When he tried to pass it back to me, it touched Robben, but it got to me and I got it to Torres on the left wing.  I think any Spaniard could narrate what happened from there and will never forget it.  I’m proud to have participated in that play. 

Fernando Torres: I got the ball from Navas, and I saw that Andrés was moving towards the second post, but the pass was a bit short.  From the time that Cesc got the ball, I followed the play from a different angle.  When the ball entered, everything appeared to stop.  Everything changed in that moment, it was ours, for us, for our country.  I was the first one to see Andrés coming, his face, his shout, the shirt for Dani Jarque, who had been our teammate so many times on the youth teams.  Then I got injured, but Dr. Cota, Raúl and Fernando, the fisios, were there to send me back to the field to enjoy what we had won, the history that we had changed.

Cesc Fàbregas: I saw that Fernando’s cross would be a bit short, that it wouldn’t reach me.  I sensed that the defender would clear the ball poorly and I tried to anticipate it to get an advantage.  It worked out perfectly and I found myself with two options: shooting directly at the goal or passing the ball to Andrés.  I saw that he had shaken off his defender and I decided to pass it.  Once he had controlled the ball and set up his shot, I thought that it would be impossible for him to fail, that it was going to go in for sure.  And after that, everything exploded around me.  There were only two minutes between the play and the celebration but it felt like two hours.

Andrés Iniesta: obviously, many things come to mind each time I think about that minute, that play.  I’ve seen it many times, but the memory I have is that when I struck the ball, I thought that I had not directed it enough, that it was too centered.  I knew that I had to send it to the other post, but I think it didn’t go as far as it should have, although it did go with force.  Luckily, everything turned out well.  When I returned last November with the national team, I went to the spot where I hit the shot.  I thought that on the day of the final when I was going to take the shot, the goal appeared to be smaller and I had shot it from much further away.

Álvaro Negredo: I watched it with teammates and our wives at home.  For those of us who love football, it was something incredible.  I needed to see how this national team of unique players could lift up a World Cup.  It’s the best day I’ve had in this profession without being on the field.  I got very emotional and that even surprised me. 

Juan Mata: I watched the final from the bench, nervous from not knowing whether I was going to enter the field or not.  I remember Iniesta’s goal like it was yesterday, this shot with his right foot that all of us pushed in together.  It was incredible.  I’m never going to forget all of it, from the final to the final whistle to the celebrations to the return to Spain.

Álvaro Arbeloa: the truth is that the only thing I remember is running after Pepe knowing that in that moment we were champions of the world.  It was a rush for what it was.  We had seen ourselves in the penalty round and all that it brought.  When Andrés scored, it was total ecstasy.  I will never forget it.

Roberto Soldado: I watched it with friends and it was unforgettable.  I’m proud that the national team won the World Cup, and to have played with some of these players later on.

Javi Martínez: I don’t think I will ever forget this.  When I saw Iniesta’s shot go in the goal, I went completely crazy, just like everyone else who was on the bench that day.  We should have set a new national record for how fast we ran the 70 to 80 meters to the corner where Andrés was celebrating.  I’ve never run so fast in my life.  I feel privileged to have been part of something like that.  I still get goosebumps thinking about it.

Rubén de la Red: the federation had the nice gesture of inviting me to Soccer City and there I was, suffering.  When the goal came, we all exploded with joy.  I hugged everyone around me.

Marcos Senna: I watched the final on TV, in Valencia at a friend’s house.  I remember how impressive it was when Iniesta scored the goal, we all jumped up like crazy!  Although I have to admit I lived it with a bit of longing because I would have loved to have been in Johannesburg with my teammates.

Pepe Reina: I will never forget it.  I ran out from the bench and suddenly we were all on top of Andrés celebrating.  I remember that I fell on top of Cesc and I heard him shout, “I’m suffocating!”  But no one paid him any attention.  Seeing an entire country united is something that I don’t think I’ll ever see again in my life.  It’s something that is only achieved thanks to football.

César Azpilicueta: I had just signed with Olympique and in those days, it was very hot in Marseille.  I saw the game on TV in my room, in the hotel where we had our concentración, and I was very nervous.  I knew that we were going to win, but it got complicated.  When Iniesta scored, I opened the window and shouted out “goal!”  It was unforgettable.

Ander Herrera: it was in Zaragoza, with my friends and in our hangout spot.  There were 15 or 20 of us and I remember that we all started hugging like crazy when Iniesta scored.  We even broke the door of the place, which was made of glass.  For those of us who love football, this was a moment that we will never forget.

Statistics, anecdotes and data.

As always, via Mister Chip and AS.

A fortress: Spain has played 30 consecutive games at home without losing (28 wins and two ties), and with one more, it will equal its best record, set between Dec. 11, 1968 and Sept. 26, 1979 (31 consecutive games, with 20 wins and 11 ties).  In the last seven years, only two visitors have not lost to Spain on home soil: France (1-1 in the Calderón on Oct. 16, 2012) and Finland (1-1 in El Molinón on March 22, 2013).

Spain and Italy: Spain and Italy have played each other 32 times, with a balance of nine wins, 10 losses and 13 ties for Spain.  After today’s game, Italy will tie France as the rival Spain has played the second most number of times.  First is Portugal (35).

A tough rival: Italy ranks third on the list of national teams that have defeated Spain the most number of times with 10 wins.  Ahead are England (12) and France (11).  Of these 10 wins, only one came on Spanish soil, and that was 65 years ago (1-3 at the Bernabéu on March 27, 1949).

Twentieth friendly: since 1924, Spain and Italy have played 20 friendlies, with each team hosting 10.  The balance is favorable for Spain (seven wins, seven ties and five losses).  Spain also has the advantage in the nine home games (five wins, three ties, one loss).

Twelve consecutive wins: since the loss to Romania in Cádiz (0-1) on Nov. 15, 2006, Spain has won 12 consecutive times in its last 12 friendlies as the home team (with 30 goals in favor and two against).  The victims include France, England, Argentina, Chile, Colombia and Italy.  Since Messi’s penalty at the Calderón on Nov. 14, 2009, Spain has not received a goal at home in a friendly for 479 minutes.  During this time, it has scored 19 goals.

At the Calderón: Spain has never lost at the Calderón, after 10 games (seven wins and three ties).  This will be its sixth friendly at the stadium.

Diego Costa: Diego Costa will be the 89th Atlético player on the national team, and the 72nd to debut.  Only three teams have contributed more players: Barcelona (125), Real Madrid (117) and Athletic (95).  Eight Atlético players (Silva, Collar, Peiró, Adelardo, Gárate, Pedraza, Manolo, Adrián) managed to score during their debuts, compared to eight for Athletic, 14 for Barça and 12 for Madrid.

The first time: no Spanish player in the Italian league has played Italy in a game between the national teams.  Pepe Reina and Raúl Albiol could be the first ones.  Twelve players have been called up to play for Spain while playing for an Italian club: Luis Súarez, Del Sol, Peiró, Martín Vázquez, Amor, Farinós, José Mari, Mendieta, Guardiola, Albiol, Llorente and Pepe Reina.

La Rojita.

Meanwhile, over in Palencia, La Rojita was making history.  The team extended its non-losing streak to 33 (including 15 wins in the last 15 games) with a 2-0 win over Germany in a friendly.  In September, the next time the team gets together, it will be five years since its last loss.  The goals were scored by Álvaro Morata and Isco.  Derik Osede and Denis Suárez made their debuts with the U-21 team, while Iker Muniain became the most capped player in the category with 28 games under his belt (he also has one cap with the senior team during this time).  Here are some adorable photos the boys shared during their time together, and a perfect way to end this post.


Posted on March 5, 2014, in la rojita, players, team, training and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.

  1. Love Pique’s tribute. He’s right, they can look all they want and never find another Puyol. He has impressed me more than I can describe as he is not only a great player, but a true sportsman on and off the pitch!
    (When did Pique go and grow up on us?)
    Thanks for the post! It made my morning. :)

  2. ahhh, i have really, really MISSED la roja! less than 100 days til the world cup now!

    so many wonderful things here and i don’t even know where to start, but i will admit even as a diehard madridista, i was so very sad to hear of puyi’s decision to leave barca (and likely, the national team, too). he is a class act all the way and i have nothing but mad love and respect for him. <3

    chori doesn't look like chori in that photo with just iker. i think it's the lack of a beard. speaking of chori, who is his mini-me in the bottom la rojita photo next to ABMM?

    i loved the recap of what everyone was doing and thinking at minute 116 (especially iniesta's … i can only imagine what it felt like to go back there and stand right on the same spot). it sent chills up my spine to remember it all.

    thank you for putting this together, una. i'm so pleased you decided to continue writing and updating occasionally! :)

    • Jordi Amat! I mentioned before that he could be the fourth Albiol brother, and he even looks more like Chori than Chori’s actual brothers!

  3. Thanks for translating. Thanks to Aragones and to Puyol for creating such great moments!

  4. I really liked that segment on Minute 116. And I want to thank you, Una, for guiding us through the journey to that historic moment and through all the celebrations that followed. I hope you will again be our guide to the Spain NT for the 2014 World Cup!

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