MADRID: Spain set off on a trip to face Mexico in what will be their first international since winning the World Cup for the first time. La Furia Roja set off for Mexico City, where they are scheduled to play as part of their hosts’ bicentenary celebration of independence from Spain.
Today’s encounter will see the Spanish lay their new-found prestige on the line as the best side in the world against Mexico.
“The fact we have won the World Cup does not mean that we no longer have goals and objectives to achieve,” said Athletic Bilbao striker Fernando Llorente. “We have to carry on as we have been doing with a view to winning as much as possible.”
The squad includes 18 of the players who saw off the Netherlands in the final last month although one of those missing will be scorer and Barcelona star Andres Iniesta who will be rested by coach Vicente del Bosque.
Meanwhile World Cup flops France and England both set out today on what they hope is the first step in restoring their battered images in friendlies against Norway and Hungary respectively.
It is France, however, who have the most to make up after a catastrophic and farcical appearance in South Africa which saw Nicolas Anelka sent home for a foul-mouthed outburst at then-coach Raymond Domenech.
Domenech’s successor Laurent Blanc has the chance to erase memories of that hapless campaign and he has moved quickly by leaving out all of that squad from the one to take on Norway in Oslo.
“What happened in South Africa cannot be rubbed out,” said Blanc. “It is a scar. There is only one way that we can erase the memory of South Africa and that is winning.”
On the other hand, England coach Fabio Capello has as much to prove from now on as England’s abysmal performance has given way to deep scepticism from all corners.
Many observers believe that had Capello not signed a new contract prior to the World Cup finals he would have been sacked.
Capello himself has accepted as much. “I would have understood if the FA decided to sack me,” said Capello.
Argentina will be ready to unleash their World Cup anger on the Republic of Ireland in today’s friendly in Dublin.
Ireland will provide the opposition for Argentina’s first game since their 4-0 quarter-final shock against Germany in South Africa. The match marks the start of Argentina’s post-Diego Maradona era, under Sergio Batista’s leadership.
“I am sure this team will play with a bite. They’ll be looking for a win. They don’t like to lose. They will be angry after what happened in South Africa,” said Batista.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 11th, 2010.
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