Xabi Alonso ‘cannot wait’ to make comeback with La Roja

Xabi Alonso ‘cannot wait’ to make comeback with La Roja


Real Madrid midfielder Xabi Alonso will be returning to the starting lineup of the Spanish national squad in a friendly match against Equatorial Guinea, as revealed last week by La Roja coach, Vicente Del Bosque.

The 31-year-old Basque has not played for Spain since last March, due to pubalgia, a condition of chronic groin pain which he finally had surgery on at the end of last season.

After recovering over the summer, and not participating with La Roja in the Confederations Cup, shortly before the start of the season he fractured the fifth metatarsal of his right foot. He returned to playing with Real Madrid this month and played a crucial role in Los Blancos’ wins against Rayo Vallecano and Real Sociedad.

Xabi’s midfield contributions in the past two La Liga games have revitalised Real Madrid’s playmaking capabilities, and fans are expecting to see a similar effect on the Spain squad, with his return alongside Busquets, in what many consider to be among the world’s best midfield pairings. Alonso has been a key player for Del Bosque and, as was the case for Real Madrid during his absence, Spain suffered both defensively and offensively without him in its anticlimatic Confederations Cup performance, particularly in the 0-0 draw against Italy in the semifinals, and the 3-0 defeat against Brazil in the final.

At a recent press conference, the ten-year-veteran of La Roja (having debuted internationally in April 2003) commented on his upcoming return to the national side: “I am really looking forward to be back playing for Spain.” Alonso, who has scored 15 goals in his 107 appearances for Spain, added: “I want to enjoy a productive season and, hopefully, be at Brazil 2014. I wasn’t able to take part in the Confederations Cup and watching it from afar was quite frustrating for me.”

Saturday’s match will be the first in La Roja’s two-stage “African tour”, and will be followed by another friendly against South Africa in Johannesburg’s Soccer City stadium, which has become sacred ground for Spain, after the World Cup title it won there three summers ago.

The game against Equatorial Guinea, which will be played in the capital city of Malabo, has been the object of controversy beyond the world of football. The African nation has been living under a dictatorial regime since Teodoro Obiang’s 1979 coup d’etat. Critics of the choice of venue (which was actually the third option for the Spanish Football Federation, after negotiations with Gabon and Angola fell through) have commented on the possibility of Obiang’s government trying to use the match as a way of improving its image. The Spanish Football Federation claims it has had no contact with the dictator and that there are no events planned with the regime.

As a curious coincidence, Xabi Alonso’s last game with La Roja was the Brazil 2014 qualifier against France in Paris last March (which Spain won 0-1, with a goal by Pedro), when the Spanish squad, for the first and only time so far in its history, sported an all-red uniform (as opposed to the usual blue shorts). Saturday’s match in Malabo will be the official debut of the all-red uniform as Spain’s regular kit, which it will wear as the defending champion in next summer’s World Cup.