Rallying the La Roja faithful in time for WC 2014

Maldita Nerea’s “Buena Energia” (Good Energy—sounds something like Paul Hewitt would say)/”Yo Te Seguiré” (I will Follow You) is my new LSS. They’ve got Iker, Xavi, Diego Costa, Jordi Alba, and Cesar Azpilicueta on the video. It is also quite remarkable for the sole fact that Iker does not have a sense of rhythm.

Here’s a TVC from Cruzcampo, which asks for the “hearts”/escudos of the La Roja shirt. Even if it’s in Spanish, you can figure out pretty much what they will do with those collected—form a giant heart to be sent to the NT in Brazil. Oh, and mad props for Sergio Ramos’ subtle acting skills.

My favorite has got to be the Movistar TVC. Basically, it asks the question, “How do you motivate the stars who have won everything?” The simple answer: make them wear disguises and put them in another’s shoes and make them experience the effort put in by different people in different fields. Andres Iniesta is sent to the kitchens to peel potatoes. Juanfran and Santi Cazorla are sent to work as gardeners. Pepe Reina is a pre-school teacher. Xabi Alonso is a nurse in a home for the elderly.

Cannes-worthy, I think.

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…And they’re back!!!

This is quickly becoming a highly interesting Euro 2012 campaign for Spain. Carles Puyol and David Villa have been ruled out, leaving vacancies in the defense and attack. La Roja just had its first pre-Euro 2012 friendly versus Serbia—and Vicente del Bosque fielded a very different starting XI, in the absence of the Barcelona and Athletic Bilbao players (Barcelona, by the way, routed Bilbao in the Copa del Rey final—a fitting end to Pep Guardiola’s run as manager). As expected, the European and World Champions routed Serbia 2-0.

If anything, the new guys stepped up and made a case for themselves to be included in the final line-up for Euro 2012. Spain’s goals came from Adrian and a penalty conversion of Santi Cazorla (wherein Adrian also figured). I thought Juanfran Torres and Alvaro Negredo also worked to show why they should be included in the line-up.

In other news, heavy favorites Netherlands and Germany suffered pre-Euro 2012 defeats in their own friendlies.

Campeones, campeones!

Real Madrid beat Athletic Bilbao at San Mamés 3-0, with goals from Pipita Higuain, Mesut Özil, and Cristiano Ronaldo. With two fixtures left in the season, Real Madrid has effectively won La Liga (after quite a four-year wait!).

(I personally thought La Liga was already won when we triumphed over Barcelona, but hey, this just officially seals the deal. After all, we still have a seven-point cushion over the Catalans!)

Now onto the important part of this post: SHIRTLESS LOCKER ROOM CELEBRATION PHOTOS.

Whoever introduced these men to social media must be thanked. These locker room photos are effin’ awesome. Plus, Iker Casillas has been drunk-posting on Facebook like crazy! And Sergio Ramos has just posted a video on the plane of him and Alvaro Arbeloa dancing to Michael Jackson.

Yep, that’s how Real Madrid rolls.

Por fin! Una victoria contra Barcelona en La Liga!

In the lead up to this installment of El Clasico, both Real Madrid and Barcelona were coming off losses in their Champions League semifinals ties versus Bayern Munich and Chelsea, respectively. Given that said context, this particular Clasico had tempered the morbo that exists between these two clubs—after all, the fixture list was anything but challenging.

I’ll be the first to admit that I was expecting a draw (or at least be thankful if we could manage a draw). After all, a quick look at the head-to-head statistics reveal that in La Liga, the last time that Real Madrid won over Barcelona was back in May 2008. Seven Clasicos in La Liga since then have materialized, with Real Madrid managing to draw only in one and losing the rest (including those terrible 5-0 and 6-2 matches—que horror!).

That said, this was a different Real Madrid team that showed up at Camp Nou—one that spelled of quite confidence and nothing-to-lose attitudes. This was not the team that had to rely on excessive fouling (although the playacting is still there). However, the defense was largely solid (save for the scuffle in front of the goal that led to Alexis’ lone goal for Barcelona—whose shot Iker has earlier saved), and I’m just all too glad that Fabio Coentrao contained Dani Effin’ Alves and my Sergio Ramos did a terrific job of covering Leo Messi.

One could counter that Barcelona had been running ragged, especially when Sami Khedira beat both Victor Valdes and Carles Puyol to score Real Madrid’s first goal.

While Barcelona continued to dominate possession, Real Madrid was more purposeful in the times that it had the ball. Credit should also go to Mesut Özil, who set up Cristiano Ronaldo nicely for Real Madrid’s second goal—which was just a sheer beauty to watch.

More importantly, this gives Real Madrid a seven-point cushion over Barcelona, with still a few matches to play. High time the Catalans got their wings clipped.

And, a treat for the ladies:

Imagine one day if…

…You were just walking along the streets of Madrid, set to do your daily routine when all of a sudden, Iker Casillas stops you and asks to take a photo with you, asks for your autograph, and hugs you.

I will die.

This video clip, a new campaign of BBVA also features the equally charming Andres Iniesta.

A bad case of cabin fever?

Real Madrid are headed to Moscow, Russia to face CSKA Moskva in the UEFA Champions League Round of 16, to be played on February 21 (midnight or thereabouts of February 22, Manila time). The boys must be currently suffering from cabin fever, given the quality of photos coming from that trip (see below).

Callejon and Casillas—canteranos represent.

Ricky + Ricky, and that is the ugliest photo of Sami Khedira around (not that he looks good anyway)

Sergio Ramos is totally into bondage. How naught.

Iker and Sergio are totally gorgeous, but Alvaro Arbeloa’s foot totally bombs this photo (I think the appropriate word is “kupal”, haha). Plus check out that smug smile on Xabi’s half-face.

My two captains, an update.

Liverpool won over Manchester City 1-0 in the first leg of the Carling Cup semifinals, thanks to a penalty smoothly taken by Steven Gerrard at the 11th minute. The Reds never looked back since.

My other captain, Iker Casillas has finally transferred to Adidas after 11 years with Reebok. Hooray! No more ugly zigzag-soled shoes!

And yep, this was the best transfer news to come out of the La Liga and/or EPL. Much can be said when the most interesting bit of the day is the UFL lineups.

ETA: I just realized that in both photos, my eyes darted to the crotch areas. 😉

Lucky to have scraped with a draw and some defensive notes.

Spain played Costa Rica last Tuesday (Wednesday morning, Manila time), and it marked Iker Casillas’ 127th cap for Spain—officially making him the most capped Spanish international. However, it was not the best way for nuestro capitán to mark such—especially after allowing two Costa Rica goals in the first half, with the first goal completely a massive defensive lapse on Iker’s part. He wasn’t even barking out his usual instructions to his defenders—he just looked sad. Pobrecito!

Two late goals from David Silva and David Villa salvaged the World Champion’s pride, but given how Costa Rica played, the hosts surely deserved the win.

Now, there are pundits who say that Spain’s form in friendlies has been a cause for concern. I reckon this is brought about by the loss to England and the draw with Costa Rica. Now let’s break this down.

Spain’s form versus England was not their best, but it was still miles apart from England. Spain dominated possession and had more shots on goal—it was just an unlucky night. Meanwhile, the draw with Costa Rica was indicative that the Back Four remains to be quite an experiment. I wouldn’t say that the World Champion’s drop in form in friendlies is a huge concern (come on, everyone has a point to prove against them, but for the Euro 2012 qualifiers to date—spotless), but it just give Vicente del Bosque room to experiment with the future line-up and succession planning, so to speak.

First, Sergio Ramos as RB/CB. I’m a huge fan of The Ramos, and one of his strengths is being an enterprising right back (and remember when Theo Walcott ran into a wall named Sergio Ramos? That was epic.). However, in recent months, he’s also shown at Real Madrid that he can be a capable centerback, and this is something that Vicente del Bosque has picked up on. However, the partnership with either Gerard Pique or Carles Puyol still needs some work, and this was evident when Costa Rica just made them eat their dust.

Second, Alvaro Arbeloa as RB. Arbeloa has not seen much action in the World Cup, but he has since proven at club level that he’s more than a utility man, and Vicente del Bosque has been utilizing him more often. I think he just needs to have a bit more consistency in his game—either he’s got monster games or he just disappears on the pitch.

Third, Jordi Alba could well be the next starting LB. Clearly impressive during the friendly versus England, and here’s another one of those enterprising fullbacks. Between him and Nacho Monreal, I’d rate him higher. I do hope he gets more call-ups with La Seleccion.

Fourth, what about Jose Enrique? People in England say Jose Enrique should be called up for the Spanish National Team, and hey, there’s merit to the clamor. The Liverpool left back has proven to be a key piece in King Kenny’s battle team this season, and he could well be another stable option for Vicente del Bosque. He hasn’t had any call-ups yet for for the senior squad, but had made a handful of appearances in the U16s, U20s, and U21s. (Hey Pepe Reina, put in a good word for your fellow Spaniard, will you?)

Fifth, the Age Question. At the end of the day, this boils down to the question of ageism. Two of the starters in the World Cup-winning team are hitting their mid-30s, and Vicente del Bosque is indeed looking for capable replacements for Carles Puyol and Joan Capdevila. Only time will tell though if the defensive experiments will pay off in time for next year.

(And because it was a rather painful game to watch, I’ll just share pre-match photos of the team in Costa Rica.)

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See you when it matters, kids.

When Fabio Capello announced his squad that would face Spain in this international friendly, everyone was quick to assume that it was already a ready excuse should they be humiliated by the World Champions. After all, several big names were missing—how could this squad stand a chance against the Spanish armada?

One factor that perhaps was overlooked was Spain’s rather dismal record on international friendlies post their World Cup 2010 win, with the L column registering the highest tally.

And on November 12, the side that had something to prove prevailed.

Throughout the match, I kept thinking about Xabi Alonso’s interview in The Guardian, where he notes some key differences between English and Spanish football player—it was evident in how both sides played, particularly in the first half, when the quality between both sides was just gaping. Obviously, the game changer (not just about the result, but what changed England’s psyche for the remainder of the game) was Frank Lampard’s header off a free kick to beat Pepe Reina and whoever else was supposed to mark him.

Still, a few key observations had to be made about La Roja’s performance: first, the midfield is not as tight as it usually is; second, there was no finishing—for all of Spain’s possession and technical quality, the England defense just snuffed out most of the attempts (England’s defensive line pretty much was made up of their 11 men); and third, hardly any Spaniard could break the defense, particularly in the last third of the game. Cesc Fabregas had the best chance for an equalizer, and he should have gone for goal instead of making the extra pass (which was intercepted).

Sure, the match was not the thriller that people expected it to be, yet England can only hope to take away a renewed confidence in how they perform as a team coming into Euro 2012. For Spain, Vicente del Bosque will be looking at what went wrong, but hey, I have confidence that the Spaniards will bring on the hunger and intensity during a match that matters. (Beat the World Champions, feel like World Champions—but hey, Spain are still the World Champions.)

Next up: a friendly versus Costa Rica. There were talks of a friendly versus China earlier in the year. Oh boy, if that had happened, maybe I’d be seeing my beloved team in the flesh already.

Side Notes: This is Xabi’s first time to play in Wembley, and he clocked a solid performance despite the loss. This is also a breakout game for Jordi Alba, who showed his quality as a left fullback. And for the love of all things handsome, what is that thing on Cesc Fabregas’ head?

It is also important to note that this is Iker Casillas’ 126th cap for Spain, tying Andoni Zubizarreta for most caps for country. Felicidades capitan!

And this is what it feels like to by on Skype with Iker (well, we can all dream, right?):

Sunday morning starts in bed with…

Sergio Ramos:

Or Iker Casillas:

So yes, one of the greatest clubs in the world decides to stamp its greatness once again by sharing photos of players in various states of consciousness, which would excite the female population of el madridisimo. Yes, it is useful to know that Sergio sleeps on the right side of the bed, while Iker is the king-of-the-bed type, sleeping right smack at the middle. Now these beds should have enough space for everyone.

That said, Real Madrid’s game versus Osasuna will be on at 6 a.m. my time tomorrow—absolutely fantastic then, having football first thing in the morning, and thank god for the long weekend. It’s actually on at 7 p.m., Sunday. An even more fantastic time! Gracias La Liga gods!

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On the other hand, this totally allows me to shake off the frustration following last night’s Liverpool-Swansea match. Liverpool came out attacking in the first half, but somehow that momentum was not translated in the second half (and I’m inclined to think the officiating had a hand at it, as well). The closest we got to goal were a Dirk Kuyt shot that was ruled offside, and an Andy Carroll deflection that hit the crossbar. Swansea had a commendable game, but Liverpool were just too unlucky with all the shots that didn’t go in. Both goalkeepers, Pepe Reina and Michel Vorm, had fantastic games—Vorm, especially, was a fortress.

Fifth at the standings. Bouncing back versus Chelsea in two weeks’ time is imperative. Come on you Red Men!

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Found this old video of Kaka and Dan Carter. Oh yes, the cuteness is exploding: