THE HALF DECENT FOOTBALL MAGAZINE

The WSC preview for the 2010 World Cup winners proved to be fairly accurate

What are the expectations for the team?

Discreet optimism. The nation is proud to be considered the favourite (along with Brazil) but is nevertheless unused to being the light horse, instead of the perennially dark one. The press seems a little cautious, reluctant to overdo it.

Is the coach popular?
Vicente del Bosque is the cuddly uncle of the country, a pipe-and-slippers type who stays out of the limelight. He says very little and is therefore difficult to attack. Spain’s traditional antagonism towards the manager will be muted, whatever the outcome. Preferring the minimalist approach to management, Steve McManaman famously said of Del Bosque while under his tutelage at Real Madrid: “I hardly ever saw him. Great bloke apparently.”

Are there any players with unusual hobbies or business interests?
Sergio Ramos spends most of his spare time looking louche in a bevy of disreputable glossies. He is rumoured to play guitar, although no one has actually witnessed this. David Villa will also appear semi-naked in a calendar due out just before the World Cup. It makes him look taller than he really is. Dani Güiza’s hobby is an annual divorce. If picked, he would have his work cut out deciding on which WAG to take along

Who are the best and worst interviewees?
The best are probably Iker Casillas and Xabi Alonso. Unafraid to speak his mind now, the former has become the elder statesman at 29 and is capable of the occasional soundbite and frosty put-down when necessary. Alonso is trilingual with legal qualifications. Not only does Xavi Hernández look thoroughly miserable most of the time, his nickname, Humphrey Bogart, seems more related to his clipped style of speech rather than a physical resemblance.

Are there any personal rivalries in the squad?
The squad is remarkably chummy these days. The only slight tension seems to be between Ramos and anyone he might have kicked during the season, but since that means everyone (including his Real Madrid team-mates) things should be just fine.

Are any players involved in politics?
This is the most apolitical squad in decades. Alonso once hung out in Basque nationalist quarters, but since signing for Real Madrid he seems to have dropped that potential little millstone. Both Carles Puyol and Xavi have come out as anti-Catalanistas – a political act in itself, but one that reduces the old tensions even further. Xavi famously mouthed Viva España! at the 2008 celebrations, an act of unity or provocation, depending on which side of the fence you reside.

Have the team recorded a song for the World Cup?
Unfortunately yes and, of course, it’s shite. It’s by Luis Ramiro and follows in the traditional profundities of the genre with an inane chorus that goes Somos la roja, fútbol! (We are the reds, football!). The players have allegedly added voices to the chorus, but its tediously accurate harmonies suggest otherwise.

What will the media coverage be like?
Canal Plus will have the lion’s share of the pay-channel time, but Tele 5 have eight open matches to screen and Channel 4 six games, guaranteeing all Spain’s games. If we want to see the rest, it’s down to the local bar. José Antonio Camacho, whose famous armpit stains soaked the Spanish consciousness in 2002, has swapped the bench for the mic and will be lending analysis to Tele 5’s matches. Actually, he’s quite good.

Will there be many fans travelling to South Africa?
Tickets have been slow to sell. Travel agents are offering new cut-price deals, but the fact that smoking is yet to be banned in South Africa should guarantee a decent Spanish turn-out in the end. Phil Ball 

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