As Jordi Alba prepared to speak to FIFA.com, following the victory over Nigeria that guaranteed Spain went through to the last four at the FIFA Confederations Cup Brazil 2013 as Group B winners, his fellow La Roja and Barcelona defender Gerard Pique passed behind him, yelling “MVP (Most Valuable Player)! MVP!”
He was not wrong, with the flying left-back’s two-goal display in the 3-0 win against the African champions at Fortaleza’s Estadio Castelao earning him the Budweiser Man of the Match award. What is more, in one game he equalled the number of goals he had scored in his previous 19 appearances for La Selección.
“This is clearly new to me,” said Alba with a grin. “Particularly because of the quality of the forwards in this squad. If it’s odd for me to score just one, ... Of course I’m pleased, but I’m also happy we kept a clean sheet and beat a team like Nigeria, who made life difficult for us for the whole 90 minutes,” added the 24-year-old, scorer of his side’s first and third goals.
On both occasions the full-back underlined the qualities that have helped him go about cementing a starting berth for Spain, having been first called up in September 2011. “The first goal was a normal move, because I went up the flank and the pass by Andres [Iniesta] invited me to cut inside. Then I got a bit of luck with a rebound and managed to tuck it away with my left foot,” he explained, with characteristic modesty.
“For the second goal I noticed that they [Nigeria] had switched off and so I didn’t come back to my normal position,” he recalled. “[David] El Guaje Villa then played a phenomenal pass to me. I controlled it well and, after going round the keeper, I just had to knock it into the net with my right foot.”
From one scorer to another
So, how important is Alba to this Spain side? “He brings a lot to the team,” said Fernando Torres with conviction, when speaking to FIFA.com. “We spoke about this with him the other day.
"In this team perhaps the most difficult roles are full-back and striker, because of what you need to bring to the side and how much of the work you do goes unseen. In Jordi’s case, while he’s not often the one scoring, he always gives you something extra going forward.”
The Chelsea striker was happy to continue giving his verdict on Alba, whose two goals mean he is now only three behind Torres in the race for the adidas Golden Boot. “A lot of people saw him as a player who’d come out of nowhere, who from one moment to the next carved out a spot for himself,” said El Niño.
“Everyone was really impressed with him at the last EURO , perhaps because they’d not seen him play for Valencia. Now you watch him at Barcelona and it looks like he’s been playing with them for ten years [when he only signed in summer 2012]. He’s getting more influential all the time with La Selección too.”
Intriguingly, Alba’s first goal for La Roja came nearly a year ago, in the final of UEFA EURO 2012 against Italy, Spain’s upcoming semi-final opponents at Brazil 2013. The wide-man scored his side’s second in a 4-0 win that clinched the continental title and would, had Vicente del Bosque’s charges not already triumphed at the 2010 FIFA World Cup™, have guaranteed their involvement here on Brazilian soil.
“That goal was special because of everything it meant, but to start thinking about scoring against them again [would be a big leap]...” he said as the conversation concluded. “For now, I’ll just savour these two goals. That’s enough for me.”