Spain shun domestic strife as Del Bosque chases record in Doha

The attention span of the Spanish public may be too stretched to fully embrace Wednesday’s intriguing-looking friendly against Uruguay, which is quite naturally being played in Qatar.

A series of domestic political scandals and the murmuring surrounding suggested doping and global match-fixing in football had La Liga Loca’s vegetable vendor of choice shrugging his shoulders for five solid minutes on Wednesday morning, not knowing where to start with his daily rant. Being a busy bee, the blog had to leave him in suspended animation, while taking its kilo of potatoes back to HQ for tonight’s Cottage Pie.

“Every TV news is a horror show. The World Cup in Qatar whiffs of trouble; Real Sociedad have become mixed up in ‘Operación Puerto’ and Europol uncovers a match-fixing network,” frets AS editor Alfredo Relaño in Wednesday’s edition. It’s the second of this list that is currently the talk of football town, with the scandal a legal minefield of accusations and denials involving a former club president, the current president of the Spanish League and even a former Minister of Sport.

If past experience of these kind of reports in Spain is anything to go by, it could either be ground-shaking news that causes heads to roll, or will quietly go away with nobody particularly keen on opening this particular can of worms then having to sweep the wriggling contents under the carpet.

The latest jolly for Vicente del Bosque’s medal-clad money-makers is a trip to Qatar, a pleasant change of scene after a recent Central America vibe which saw friendlies against Puerto Rico, Costa Rica and Panama.

Del Bosque's boys lark about during a training session in Doha

The photographs from the most recent of those expeditions were of footballers particularly non-plussed by the country’s canal. Wednesday’s newspapers have the same group trying a little harder to look enthused while posing for pictures with members of the Qatari royal family. While the team are in Doha, la Selección will also be playing a game of football against Uruguay - as well as meeting another dignitary, in the form of Raúl.

It’s a bit of a shame that what is an unusually tasty friendly against the Copa América champions - a team with players people have actually heard of - is taking place so far away and kicking off at 19:00 Spanish time, so many will miss it out. On the plus side, the match is at least being televised, unlike October's World Cup qualifier in Belarus, for which no television company was willing or able to stump up the cash.

As with every game for Spain, wherever and whenever it happens to be played, Vicente Del Bosque has done his duty by defending the motivation. The Doha clash is “fully justified, as it’s the venue for the 2022 World Cup,” says the manager, who is set to equal the record of 68 matches as national coach, set by Ladislao Kubala between 1969 and 1980. The Uruguay clash also sees Carles Puyol making his 100th appearance for his country, just over 12 years after his first. The haircut, though, remains unchanged.

Del Bosque is once again set to play with a 'false nine' in the form of Cesc Fabregas, with his real No.9s either suffering from a lack of minutes with their clubs - David Villa or Fernando Llorente spring to mind - or suffering from being Fernando Torres. There is, though, mild interest to see whether Isco will get a run-out, with the Málaga man set to become itsy-bitsy, fancy playmaker option no.28 for his country.

For once, the world and European champions may actually take a friendly game seriously, in the knowledge that Uruguay will be their normal competitive selves and have players with the quality to dish out the pain when need be. The clash may be another money-making match for the country’s FA but for once it’s a game worth playing.

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