Roberto Soldado had a night to remember on Sunday as Spain entered the fray at the FIFA Confederations Cup Brazil 2013. The Valencia striker was handed his major tournament debut for La Roja and he took advantage of the opportunity, scoring his side’s second goal against Uruguay, a strike that would eventually prove decisive.
After the match, the visibly content forward spoke exclusively to FIFA.com.
“Truth be told, I’m extremely happy,” said Soldado with a broad smile. “Obvously, I’m satisfied with my own performance, but more importantly, we managed to win the match. To have played a part in that is a real source of motivation,” he added, clearly savouring what was, for him, an ideal scenario.
The free-scoring front man had no trouble remembering the build-up to his 32nd minute goal, but was quick to share the plaudits heading his way.
“I may have put the ball in the net, but I have to pay tribute to Fabregas’ role in the goal; by feigning to shoot, he drew the two central defenders towards him, leaving me all alone. He then delivered an excellent pass to my feet, leaving me with just the goalkeeper to beat, which I managed to do,” he recalled modestly.
Humility and redemption
Soldado’s joy is not solely the result of his accomplishments during Sunday’s game. In the run-up to the last two major competitions at which Spain have competed (the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™ and UEFA EURO 2012), the attacker was among the last players to be dropped from the final squad.
This was therefore a chance that had been a long time in the making, and he had no intention of letting it pass him by.
“The truth is I never felt that I was treated unfairly. At the time, there were team-mates who were quite simply better than me,” said Soldado. “Luckily, the coach now thinks the opposite and included me in his list. And that is, of course, a big responsibility for me, to try to grasp the opportunity I’ve been given during our games here.”
But it is one thing to be part of a group and another to be named in the starting line-up for the opening match. The former Getafe player has certainly experienced a rollercoaster of emotions over the past few days.
“During our midweek training sessions, it did seem as if I might play, but I didn’t assume anything as you just never know for sure until the coach reveals the starting XI. In the end, he told us during our lunchtime chat, and it made me very happy. It motivated me to do well,” he admitted with a grin.
Rotating for results
His fine display also pours fuel on the fire of the ongoing debate in Spain surrounding the position of centre-forward. National coach Vicente del Bosque has often opted to field a midfielder in that role, and the pre-match talk was that he would go down the same road versus Uruguay. As far as Soldado is concerned, there is no correct answer.
“I think that the coach will vary things; he knows which games would be best played with a true No9 or a false nine, depending on the circumstances. What matters is that this variety, this rotation, delivers results, and for now that’s what it’s doing,” he said.
At 28 years of age, Soldado has demonstrated an impressive scoring rate with his national team, hitting the net six times in ten games.
“It’s a matter of great pride to score, and even more so for Spain. I hope to keep scoring in the tournament to help the team to emerge as champions. I feel like I’m experiencing the best period of my career. This year I knocked in more goals than I ever have in the top flight, and being here at the Confederations Cup is the perfect way to round off the season,” he explained.
If the Spaniards are to emerge as champions, it will mean adding the only international honour they currenty lack to their trophy cabinet. Aware that many crucial battles still lie ahead, Soldado has already let his imagination run wild with regard to the showpiece climax on 30 June.
“I would love Spain to lift the trophy; that’s what every kid dreams about. Getting to a final is always special, but you can’t ask for more than doing it at the Maracana,” he concluded, exhibiting the same enthusiasm he just showed on the pitch against Uruguay.