By Paul Giblin MOSCOW (Xinhua) --
Russia face a difficult task on Sunday as
the World Cup hosts take on Spain in the last 16 of the World
Cup. 81,000 fans in Moscow’s Luzhniki Stadium will cheer the
home side on; no doubt aware that in footballing terms, Russia
are massive underdogs against the 2010 World Champions.
The Spanish are
currently ranked 10th in the world by FIFA, while the
Russians are currently down in 70th place. However, a
look at how the Spanish have performed when they have played the
hosts of major tournaments over the years may serve to give the
Russians hope. Spain have faced international tournament hosts
on eight occasions and have never beaten them, managing just one
draw and seven defeats; although sometimes those defeats have
been marred by controversy.
The first exit to a
host nation by the Spanish came in 1934 in the second World Cup,
where they lost to Italy in a rematch just 24 hours after a 1-1
draw in Florence. The Spanish had two goals disallowed under
mysterious circumstances as Italy, under the gaze of the fascist
dictator Benito Mussolini, went on to win the tournament on home
There was no such
controversy when Spain were thrashed 6-1 by Brazil in 1950 in
the second group stage, although they did end the tournament
made famous by the ‘Maracanazo’ in fourth place; their best
finish until winning in South Africa in 2010. Spain actually
drew with hosts Italy in the group stage of the 1980 European
Championships, but still went home early after 2-1 defeats to
England and Belgium.
The 1984 European
Championships saw Spain reach the final only to lose to France
in a game controlled by French midfielder Michel Platini and
marked by a dreadful error by Spanish keeper Luis Arconada, who
allowed the ball to squirm under his body to give France their
opening goal in a 2-0 triumph.
The 1988 European
Championships saw hosts West Germany beat Spain 2-0 in the group
stage with two goals from Rudi Voller. Missed penalties by
Miguel Angel Nadal and current coach Fernando Hierro saw the
Spanish lose a penalty shoot-out to England in the quarterfinals
of the 1996 European Championships.
To date it is still
the only penalty shoot-out England have won in the knockout
stage of a major tournament. In 2004 it was the turn of Portugal
to end a Spanish European adventure as Spain lost the last game
in the group stage 1-0 to the hosts, when a draw would have seen
them into the quarterfinals of a tournament.
But perhaps the game
etched in Spanish memories is their quarterfinal exit to joint
hosts South Korea in the 2002 World Cup. The Spanish crashed out
5-3 on penalties after a 0-0 draw in which Egyptian referee,
Gamal Ghandour disallowed two Spanish goals, including one where
he ruled that the ball had previously gone out of play when TV
cameras showed this was clearly not the case.
Had VAR existed 16
years ago it all could have been so different. The consolation
for Spain on Sunday is that although they have yet to beat a
host nation there will be no Mr. Ghandour with a whistle, but
there will be TV cameras to ensure there is no repeat of his
Athletic Club Bilbao keeper
balaga ready for a spot in the Spanish goal
By Paul Giblin MOSCOW (Xinhua) --
Athletic Club Bilbao goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga
says he is ready to replace David de Gea in the Spanish goal for
their last 16 World Cup tie against Russia if coach Fernando
Hierro believes it is necessary.
De Gea came to the
World Cup with a reputation as one of the best goalkeepers in
the world, but his performances have been one of the weak points
of a Spanish side that conceded five goals in group stage in
which he made just one save.
Although Hierro has
publicly defended the keeper, the Spanish press speculates that
he is considering replacing De Gea with Kepa, who despite 22
appearances for the Spanish Under-21 side, has just one cap with
the senior team.
Speaking on Spanish
radio Kepa said whoever played in goal was “a decision for the
coach” but he added that “all 23 players in the squad want to
play and we all fully prepared to do so.”
When asked about his
lack of international experience the 23-year-old replied,
“There’s always a first time for everything. Everything has to
start somewhere. I feel prepared: although I’ve only played one
friendly for the national side, I’ve been in call-ups and worked
with the squad while I have played for Athletic in Europe and in
the Primera Liga.”
The young keeper
added that all young players have to start somewhere. Kepa
renewed his contract with the Basque club last season when it
looked as if he was close to joining Real Madrid.
“The way I am helps
me to remain calm and to keep things inside,” he said, before
also praising his under-fire team-mate.
“I think De Gea is
relaxed, he has enough experience to live with this. All three
of the goalkeepers here get on well as we have worked together
for over a year and we support and learn from each other,” Kepa