Saint Iker set to equal Spain appearance record

Iker Casillas, the rock behind Spain's Euro 2008 and 2010 World Cup triumphs, is set to equal the country's appearances record when the world champions play England in a friendly in London on Saturday.

The 30-year-old Real Madrid goalkeeper, known as 'Saint Iker', will win his 126th cap at Wembley to match Andoni Zubizarreta's record, 11 years after making his debut in a 1-1 draw in Sweden.

The achievement is all the more impressive considering the Spain and Real captain has had to fend off competition from possibly the strongest pool of goalkeeping talent in the world.

Casillas has the No.1 jersey ahead of Barcelona custodian Victor Valdes, a three-times Champions League winner, and Liverpool's Pepe Reina, one of whom will also feature at Wembley, coach Vicente del Bosque said on Friday.

The fact that Spaniards keep goal at two of England's leading clubs - Manchester United bought Under-21 international David de Gea from Atletico Madrid in the close season - illustrates the breadth of competency the Spanish have in the position and highlights a problem for the hosts.

England boss Fabio Capello will have Manchester City's promising Joe Hart, 24, between the posts, supported by Bursaspor's Scott Carson and David Stockdale from Championship Ipswich Town.

"There is a debate in Spain that perhaps Valdes, who is also a great goalkeeper, should be in the team instead of Casillas, but really there is no motive to change him," former Spain keeper Santi Canizares told Reuters.


"He is an exemplary figure, he is the captain and the player who has made most international appearances.

"He was lucky to arrive at the first team with Real and then with the national team at a very young age and has had the quality to retain his place, which was very difficult," added Canizares, who won 45 caps and helped Valencia to a La Liga and UEFA Cup double in 2004.

"He's one of those people who has won the respect of absolutely everyone."

Canizares, who was instantly recognisable for his bleached-blond hair, detailed the qualities of the man who replaced him as Spain's number one.

"He is very quick in every situation. He is very powerful and this gives him very quick reactions, and he is able to reach things practically no one else can get anywhere near.

"He is exceptional in one-on-ones. His problems are, perhaps, more with the high ball or with the ball at his feet, but it is certain he has improved a lot in these areas."

Outstanding Casillas moments include his two penalty saves in the Euro 2008 quarter-final shootout against Italy, a match widely considered to have been the making of the current Spain team, and his one-on-one save with his foot from Arjen Robben in the 2010 World Cup final against Netherlands.

"He is a wonder of a keeper and he has saved us many times," Spain and Barca playmaker Xavi said on Friday at a joint news conference with Casillas, who looked emotional when a video of his best moments was shown.

"When all seems lost there is Iker," Xavi added.

"He is one of those people who unites a dressing room, he makes you feel welcome in the group. I would highlight the pe