World Cup: Spain complete DC preparations, feel confident ahead of title defense
LANDOVER, Md. – After a week of training at RFK Stadium and a dominant performance in a 2-0 victory over El Salvador at FedEx Field on Saturday, reigning World Cup and European champions Spain departed the Washington, D.C., area for Brazil on Sunday morning confident in their form and fitness heading into the World Cup.
"Between our trainings and these friendlies, we’re pretty optimistic, honestly,” Spain head coach Vincente del Bosque told the throng of media assembled at his postgame press conference on Saturday, "I think we’re meeting or beating our expectations."
Spain’s main concern heading into their final preparations for had been injury-related, primarily the status of Atlético Madrid forward Diego Costa, who suffered a hamstring injury in mid-May. Costa went 72 minutes in his side’s victory on Saturday and looked active, a relief to his teammates and del Bosque alike.
Costa’s Atlético teammate Juanfran had also been a bit of a question mark as he continued to recover from an ankle injury, but the right back showed well and went the distance against El Salvador.
Spain did not emerge from their D.C.-area preparations completely unscathed. Jordi Alba went down hard after a challenge from El Salvador forward Arturo Alvarez and was forced out of the match momentarily. Alba seemed uncomfortable throughout his time on the pitch, and del Bosque later revealed that the Barcelona defender had been dealing with a blister caused by a pair of new boots.
While several players on the roster are approaching the twilight of their careers and some have even stated that this will be their last hoorah with Spain, Xabi Alonso – the 32-year-old Real Madrid midfielder who earlier in the week refused to rule out the possibility of returning for another qualifying campaign – does not see the 2014 tournament as this group's last chance at a major title.
"Obviously we know that we’ve had a great run over the last six years or so,” Alonso reflected. “It's not easy to achieve what we’ve achieved so far: two Euros and a World Cup. But we’re not looking at this as our last shot. We’re just looking at this tournament as a great opportunity to make some more history.
"I guess for a few players this might be their last chance to play in a World Cup, and hopefully we’ll do our best and try and win another. We know it’s not an easy task, but we’re up for it."
"This isn’t really my dream, to win another World Cup,” Villa said pensively. "This is a collective thing. It’s our dream. I’d love to score some goals and help us win another Cup, but at the end of the day, what’s important to me is that we do this as a team. "