Iker Casillas at GQ España
Apologies for the lack of posts as Spain starts its defense of the World Cup, but I’ve been super busy with other things (including cheering on (along with Gerard Piqué) my (San Francisco) Spurs – Go Spurs Go!). I hope to post more often shortly, but in the meantime, here is Iker Casillas talking about the national team in the June issue of GQ España.
Spain is facing Australia, Chile and the Netherlands in the group stage. What do you think about the group? Is it doable?
It’s a difficult group. In addition, the first two games are against rivals that in theory are going to compete with Spain to get to the next round. And if we needed more, we’re debuting against the Netherlands, which should be the other favorite. In any case, I believe that starting off strong will be a stimulant, it made the team begin preparing mentally from the day of the draw. If we manage to get positive results in the first two games, it will be very important for our morale to continue growing in the competition.
Do you think the Netherlands still has nightmares about Iniesta’s goal?
Hombre, I suppose so. I think not only Spaniards remember that play, but also the Dutch. It was their third final and their third loss in a final. Luckily, history wanted the win to go to us, but it’s true that they suffered. Obviously, people remember and it hurts, as losing a final is never a good thing.
Speaking of lost finals, are you all gunning for Brazil after what happened in the Confecup?
The Confecup is not the same as the World Cup. I’ve played in two, and it’s not much more than a rehearsal. It’s played the year before and it’s used to see how the teams are, how the stadiums are, what the fans are like… but it has nothing to do with the World Cup. The only thing you walk away with is getting first hand experience with the fields, the climate, the fans, what you’ll be up against.
Does the star on your chest come with a lot of pressure?
I think we have to go to Brazil without pressure. In the last six years, we’ve been not just good, but sensational, and we’ve won the right to fail. We’re going in with the idea of competing and defending the title, but we know that there are 31 other teams that also want to win and that it’s not going to be easy. From what I’ve been told, my perception is that the Spanish fans are happy for these six years, and most of them believe they’ll never experience anything like that again.
Is it possible for Spain to pull off a Maracanazo?
Yes, it’s possible. We’re speaking about two teams that could get to the final. One, the actual champion, who has earned the right to be respected wherever it plays, and the other, Brazil, which has great players. This is a game that we played in the Confecup, and yes, it’s true that the stadium was practically entirely yellow, that there was hardly any red, but what happens on the pitch is affected very little by what is going on outside.
Which teams do you fear the most?
Germany, because it has young but hardened players, footballers who are heavyweights on their club teams, such as Özil with Arsenal, Schweinsteiger with Bayern Munich, Neuer. They’ve grown a lot over the years. There are other teams that are hungry to win, and with good teams, such as Portugal, Argentina and Brazil, and others with new teams, such as France. Along with the Netherlands, I believe these are the candidates to reach the final.
This year you haven’t played many games. Do you believe you’re entering the World Cup in good form?
Well, there will be two versions. One will say that I’m more rested and relaxed than other goalkeepers who have played more minutes. The other will say that it’s impossible to know if a footballer who has played little is in good form for a World Cup. But in the end the important thing is how you feel and I’ve felt pretty good this season. It’s not something that I worry about when I head into the goal.
Has Vicente del Bosque said anything to you about whether you will start?
Nothing, he told me to be tranquil and to continue doing what I’m doing. After everything that happened, this season I played all the Copa games with Real Madrid and we won it. The same with the Champions League, which has also gone well for us. I’ve tried to play every game as if it were the last, with the mindset to make the most out of it and to be in good form.
You all are going to Brazil as the defending champions after winning in South Africa. What was the most intense moment from that World Cup?
I think the most intense moment was that after the first game. It was our best game, along with the semifinal against Germany, and the only one we lost. And it was against Switzerland, a lesser rival. I remember the tension. During three days, until the second game against Honduras arrived, we read and listened to so many things that were unwarranted, undeserved criticism. At that moment, we were blamed for everything, but after the World Cup the media admitted that we had played very well in that game.
And the best moment?
Apart from winning and all that, it’s possible that the best was also that one, when we lost, in spite of the criticism. To be the world champion, you have to win six out of six games. We had lost one, the one we could lose, and what we had to do was not lose any more. That moment was good, perhaps not the best but it was positive, because it helped to unite the group and clarify our ideas.
I suppose that you all had the sensation that Spain was playing itself in that World Cup. Do you feel the same now?
In South Africa, our problem was that we were the favorites although we had not yet achieved anything. We had won the Eurocopa, but Spain had never done anything important in a World Cup, or if it had, it still had never reached the final. Now we’re known and it’s known how we play. It’s true that we ourselves are our chief rival, because I’m convinced that if we have the motivation, the desire and the hope of doing something important again, we will go far. Winning is another story, it’s so difficult… You have to have everything in place: luck, injuries, footballers in good form for 30 days, the right decisions at critical moments…
Critical moments such as your save against Robben in that final. I don’t know if that’s your best intervention, but it’s probably the most important one.
Hombre, it’s not that it was a spectacular save, like that header at three meters. It’s true that it was a one on one at top speed, and that in that final, with so many ups and downs, if they score a goal you’re practically dead. And in that moment I was lucky, because I tried to guess where Robben would shoot the ball but he changed the place in the last instance and I was able to take it with my foot. It’s not that it was a spectacular save, but it was good, because it meant that we didn’t let in a goal.
Some of the players on the team are nursing injuries and others are at the end of their careers. Is this a World Cup for the younger generation, such as Thiago, Isco or Javi Martínez, to shine?
The boys are piling on the pressure and the coach will use them. I believe the mix of veteran and young players, ones that are already important in their clubs, that Vicente has combined is very positive. It allows them to begin soaking up the style of play. As you said, it’s clear that probably after this World Cup many players will opt, or we will opt, to end our time with the national team and wish the next generation all the luck in the world.
You said they will opt or we will opt… is that something you’re thinking about?
No, it’s not that I’m thinking about it, but I’m not going to just talk about the others, I also have to include myself, no? Of course, I’m not going to be the one who encourages a teammate to retire from the national team. Right now my idea is to be part of the team as long as the coach wants me to be. But everything can change, you could win another World Cup and… you never know what will pass through your mind.
You just became a father and it’s said that priorities change with fatherhood.
Yes, because all your attention is focused on this kid, this baby, which is something new. I’m a first-time father and for me it has been the best experience of my life, above everything else. The affection, the love, the tenderness… everything is combined together in this little package that is only 60 centimeters long.
It’s also said that marriage changes your life, but to a lesser extent…
I’m not married yet, but I suppose that will change as well. Right now I’m living with my partner and it’s true that it gives you tranquility, a certain stability… I think that in the end that’s good for everyone, we all get to a point in our lives where you view things from a different perspective than when you were 20 years old.
Is the Madrid-Barça divide on the national team forgotten?
Yes, I think that back then we weren’t prepared to play four or five clásicos so close together and it affected us. But I believe you have to discuss issues like civilized people, we have to be capable of telling others face to face what we don’t like about them. Fortunately, then the 2012 Eurocopa happened, we played with practically the same players and we won it.
Luis Aragonés recently passed away; he was the man who started it all. Will this World Cup be especially touching for that reason?
Luis’ death was a blow, because it was a very cruel disease, everything happened so quickly, in three to four months, and for all of us who knew him, lived with him and shared an infinite number of experiences with him, it was terrible news. We hope this group that he united, supported, helped and convinced can dedicate a fantastic tournament to him. We want him to be proud of the team.
Watch a making of video here.