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Del Bosque praises fair play after injury

Spain's surprise 1-0 friendly defeat in South Africa on Tuesday night was mostly noticeable for a touchline fracas, when the reigning world champions overcame home objections to replace injured goalkeeper Victor Valdes even though they had already made their regulation six substitutions.

Gordon Igesund was initially unhappy with Spain wanting to introduce a seventh sub in place of Valdes.
Gordon Igesund was initially unhappy with Spain wanting to introduce a seventh sub in place of Valdes.

The drama began midway through the second half of an otherwise unremarkable game, when Barcelona keeper Valdes went down after making a routine clearance and it became clear he could not continue. Alvaro Arbeloa initially put on Valdes' jersey and gloves and was prepared to keep goal.

However the Spanish camp had approached the FIFA delegate, Ayodele Anjorin Moucharafou from Benin according to AS, who gave the okay to introduce a seventh substitute and Pepe Reina was brought on.

Bafana Bafana coach Gordon Igesund interrupted, and a heated argument took place on the touchline with La Roja assistant boss Toni Grande also involved. Lesotho referee William Koto allowed the change to be made, Arbeloa quickly put his own shirt back on, and the game resumed with Reina in goal.

Del Bosque told reporters afterwards that he acknowledged the spirit shown by both the match officials and the South African side.

"We had made the six changes and we asked the [FIFA] table if they would let us use [another] keeper," said the veteran coach. "We appreciate the 'fair play' of South Africa."

Igesund, who was clearly furious at the time, decided against protesting too loudly at his own postmatch conference, perhaps as his team had held on to win the game.

"I made it quite clear when they came to asked me if they can put in another player," Igesund said. "I told them I am not the referee. And I think we need to follow the rules and regulations. But I am not going to object if they want to put in another player, but they need to speak to the referee first as he's the official."

Reina, currently on loan at Napoli from Liverpool, told Spanish TV station Cuatro that there should not really have been a problem making another change, as the game was only a friendly.

"If we talk about fair play it is normal that a keeper can come on if he has not played," he said. "The communal spirit of the game should take precedence in those moments."

The incident further damaged an event which had been billed as a glorious return by Spain to the scene of their 2010 World Cup win, but instead became an embarrassment for Del Bosque and his players -- who never gave the impression they cared too much about the result and suffered a 1-0 defeat.

"I think we can say the defeat was well deserved," Del Bosque had the grace to admit. "We had 20 or 25 minutes of good play with the ball, getting behind the South African defence. But they started to come into the game and got better and better. We were lacking aggression in attack. It is fine to have possession but we must use it to attack. We have spoken about it and it is true that we found it difficult."

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