Del Bosque signs two-year extension
Vicente Del Bosque says he has extended his contract as Spain coach up until Euro 2016.
Del Bosque made the announcement at a news conference ahead of Saturday’s game in Equatorial Guinea, drawing attention away from the controversy which had surrounded the build-up to the game.
Opposition politicians and human rights groups in both countries have claimed the fixture should not take place due to gross inequalities and regular human rights abuses in Guinea under the regime of long-serving dictator Teodoro Obiang.
The veteran coach had said in October that a two-year extension to his contract had been agreed in principle, and confirmed to local reporters in Malabo that it was now all finalised and signed off.
"I can confirm that I have signed with the Spanish national team up until 2016," Del Bosque said, without giving any further details.
Del Bosque also did not talk about the controversy around Saturday’s game, but was polite to his hosts.
"We have been very well received here and we have a responsibility for what we represent," he said. "The two games [this week] are equally important for us. Guinea are a well organised team, who like to play on the wings. They will want to make it difficult for us, for sure."
Nevertheless Spain are expected to field a second-string team for Saturday’s game, reserving most regular starters for Tuesday’s match in Johannesburg against South Africa, when they return to the scene of their 2010 World Cup triumph.
That approach could see Barcelona’s Marc Bartra getting a first senior cap against the Guineans, with fellow youngsters Alberto Moreno of Sevilla and Inigo Martinez of Real Sociedad also featuring. Experienced usual back-ups like Pepe Reina, Juan Mata, Nacho Monreal, Fernando Llorente and Santi Cazorla could all start, while Javi Martinez is a doubt after leaving training on Thursday with a minor left knee problem.
"We are looking for all the players to get a chance to play," Del Bosque said. "We have a lot of players for each position. We hope to be fair in our choices. I believe we are well covered. Javi Martinez has some niggles, but we hope that will not stop him taking part."
Spain’s players were received by a large passionate crowd on their arrival in the capital at 7:30am on Friday morning. Equatorial Guinea coach Andoni Goikoetxea has told Marca that the game had generated a lot of excitement in the former Spanish colony.
"This is something that nobody could have imagined," Goikoetxea said. "Everyone is so excited. Here they are very passionate about football. That the world champions are coming is something marvellous. The Guineans know the Spanish players well, being Spanish speakers they follow La Liga. When it was just rumours, the people did not believe it. Nobody could believe that Spain would play here. It was unthinkable. They did not imagine that Iniesta, Arbeloa, Negredo, Xabi, Busquets... would come to Guinea. Nobody is talking about anything else at the moment."
Only three of the Equatorial Guinea squad for the game were born in country -- Felipe Ovono and Diosdado Mbele who play in Belgian second division, and Inter Milan youth team midfielder Valeriano Nchama. Of the Spanish-born players, Emilio Nsue of Real Mallorca and Rodolfo Bodipo of Xerez would be the most well-known, while the squad also contains nationalised Colombians, Brazilians and Cameroonians.
Their Basque coach, who did not comment on political issues around the game, did admit that the football structures in the country were very basic.
"Football here is very different than in Spain," Goikoetxea said. "They still lack a lot of things. There are not too many structures, no football schools, but the people like the game a lot and play it and enjoy it. If you compare with Spain, you are talking about the Segunda B [third tier]."
The ex-Athletic Bilbao defender said that there were no problems with the facilities at the Nuevo Estadio de Malabo, which was built for the 2012 African Cup of Nations and financed by the country’s oil wealth.
"There will be 18,500 people in the stadium," he said. "And the pitch is phenomenal. It is a nice stadium, functional and modern. People will be surprised."