Sebastian Gallegos, Borja and Koke spend most of their days playing on the same side, battling for the cause in the same red-and-white stripes of Atletico Madrid. That will all change on 9 November, when Gallegos pulls on the famous baby blue of his beloved Uruguay and locks horns with Borja and Koke, both of whom play for Spain, in the quarter-final in Kaduna.
Just two weeks after saying their goodbyes at the Majadahonda training ground in the Spanish capital, the trio are set to be reunited far, far away in the northern Nigerian city of Kaduna. "I saw them [Borja and Koke] here already at the team hotel in Kano [where both of the teams played their third group games] and I told Borja straight-up that if we meet Spain in this tournament, we are going to give them a big whipping," Gallegos, Uruguay's two-goal hero from the round-of-16 win against Iran in Calabar, told FIFA.com.
Gallegos has looked every inch the star in this talented Uruguayan side, who, despite struggling through their group, look to be coming together at just the right time. The Spaniards, for their part, have been the cream of these finals, winning all three of their pool games with consummate ease and hammering Burkina Faso 4-1 last time out.
Koke, with the cool confidence befitting a member of this supremely gifted Spanish side, has a rather curt response for his club teammate. "He thinks they are going to win, eh? Well, I have a simple thing to say to him: They have no chance! It's funny, because we haven't even had a chance to play each other on the Playstation in Madrid yet, and here we are going head-to-head in a [FIFA] World Cup."
Borja, who has two goals at these finals, allows a little bit of sentimentality to drip into his voice, taking over from his team-mate for both club and country. "Sebastian [Gallegos] only arrived at Atletico in the summer, so I haven't known him long. But in that short time, he has become a very good team-mate and a very close friend of mine."
No time for friendship
Judging by the genuine affection and mutual respect shared among the trio, it is likely to be hugs and kisses all around before the opening whistle. When the contest begins, though, you can be sure all generous romanticism, thoughts of friendship and shared moments on the Atletico training pitch will be put to one side. "I have affection for Spain as I live there now and play my club football there," added the rangy Uruguayan, who resides on the outskirts of Madrid with his uprooted family. "But here and now there can be no question: I am all about the Celeste shirt, and helping raise my country's name high."
When asked if the thinks Uruguay have a realistic chance of getting the better of mighty Spain, the impressive young Gallegos goes one further. "Of course I think we can beat Spain," snaps the tournament's top scorer. "What kind of footballer would I be if I didn't? I even think that we can win this whole World Cup here. If we work a little harder, get a little sharper and take more of our chances, there is no reason why we can't go all the way to the final."
All will be known on Monday at the Ahmadu Bello Stadium, where either Gallegos or his Spanish mates will be victorious. The loser, or losers, on the day will no doubt suffer some steady taunting when back in the shadow of the mighty Vicente Calderon.