Vicente Del Bosque has refused to reveal whether Iker Casillas will be between the sticks for Spain when they take on Uruguay in their FIFA Confederations Cup curtain-raiser on Sunday.
The 32-year-old has been his country's uncontested first-choice goalkeeper during the glorious run that has seen La Roja accumulate successive victories at UEFA EURO 2008, the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™ and EURO 2012. However, a hand injury means the Real Madrid man has barely played in 2013 and in his absence, Barcelona rival Victor Valdes has proved a capable deputy.
"We're going to wait until the last moment, but yes, I've more or less chosen my team," Del Bosque said at a press conference. "Our three goalkeepers (including Pepe Reina) are excellent. They demonstrate it regularly with their clubs, which are three great clubs, and it gives them a special responsiblity."
Asked about Casillas, who spent the last months of Jose Mourinho's tenure as Real coach on the bench, Del Bosque insisted he was not unduly concerned by his recent activity.
"In recent times, Iker has had a setback in his career, but I don't think it would handicap him if he had to play the match," he said. "He's assumed his responsiblities very well in the last few years. He's just been through an unprecedented situation, which I imagine wasn't easy for him."
Our three goalkeepers are excellent. They demonstrate it regularly with their clubs, which are three great clubs, and it gives them a special responsibility.
Casillas, who appeared alongside Xavi as joint-captain at an earlier press conference, responded to a question about his chances of starting by saying: "I don't know."
"I'm approaching this tournament in a different manner to the previous ones. Obviously, the fact I've not played for a long time means I've got less rhythm than my team-mates, but since we first met up on 4 June, the coach has been able to judge me."
Casillas played a bit-part in each of Spain's two warm-up games, replacing Valdes for the last 30 minutes of the 2-0 win over Republic of Ireland and then playing the first half of the 2-1 defeat of Haiti.
"Against Ireland, I'd already rediscovered myself," he said. "Before the match, I was a bit anxious because I hadn't played for a while and I knew I'd be under scrutiny, but it went well. I enjoyed rediscovering the continuity that I've had with the national team for the past 12 years."
2009 setback irks Xavi
Spain's only setback in their five-year dominance of international football was a shock 2-0 defeat by USA in the FIFA Confederations Cup semi-finals in 2009. Despite the astonishing success they have since achieved, that disappointment still rankles Xavi.
"It might be the last Confederations Cup that we compete in, because of age and the fact you have to win a major title to qualify," said the Barcelona midfielder. "We still haven't digested what happened four years ago in South Africa. We want to go and claim this title that Spain and our generation are lacking."