Century not out for Spain’s ‘Máquina’
An integral part of Spain's triumphs at UEFA EURO 2008 and the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™, Xavi enjoyed a landmark night and a 2-1 victory in 25 March’s EURO 2012 qualifier against Czech Republic.
Given his debut ten years, four months ago under then coach Jose Antonio Camacho, Friday’s encounter was the Catalan playmaker’s 100th appearance for La Selección. A magnificent international career has featured 76 wins, 16 draws and just eight defeats, spanning three FIFA World Cups and two EUROs.
At the age of 31, Xavi is thus welcomed into that select band of players to have made 100 or more appearances in the red of Spain, and he does so still at the peak of his powers and with a burning desire for yet more silverware. FIFA.com pays tribute to this most sublime of schemers by picking out five key dates and five key stats from his time in a Spanish shirt.
24 April 1999: Xavi is part of the Spain side that triumphs at the FIFA U-20 World Cup in Nigeria after a 4-0 final win over Japan. Scorer of two goals at that competition, little could the No8 have imagined the global glory that awaited him on African soil eleven years later.
30 September 2000: In the final of the Men’s Olympic Football Tournament in Sydney, Xavi puts Spain in front after two minutes against Cameroon, though the two sides are deadlocked at 2-2 after extra time. And though the Barça star puts away his spot-kick, a faultless penalty-taking display from Cameroon and Ivan Amaya’s failure to convert his kick hands victory and the gold medal to the Indomitable Lions.
15 November 2000: Jose Antonio Camacho gives Xavi a chance with the senior national team in Spain’s friendly against the Netherlands in Seville, with the midfield string-puller starting the game, playing the full 90 minutes and picking up a yellow card. In an intriguing twist of fate, it was against the same national side that Xavi tasted FIFA World Cup triumph just under ten years later.
29 June 2008: After a 44-year major trophy drought, La Roja are crowned European champions at Vienna’s Ernst Happel stadium after sinking Germany through Fernando Torres’ solitary strike. Xavi is subsequently voted the player of the tournament.
11 July 2010: La Selección lift the FIFA World Cup Trophy for the first time following victory over the Netherlands in the Final of South Africa 2010. Xavi’s Barcelona cohort Andres Iniesta scores the only goal of the match deep into extra time.
4 – The number of players, including Xavi, to win 100 or more senior international caps for Spain. Also part of this exclusive group are iconic former keeper Andoni Zubizarreta (126), current No1 Iker Casillas (117) and ex-Real Madrid and current Schalke striker Raul Gonzalez (102).
8 – The number of goals he has fired for La Selección. Always more of a creator than a taker of chances, Xavi has popped up with a couple of historic strikes. His first goal came against China in 2005 and his most recent was against Denmark in 2008, while in between he has found the net against Northern Ireland (twice), Argentina, Latvia, the USA and Russia.
500 – In the 50th minute of Spain’s EURO 2008 semi-final against Russia, Xavi opened the scoring to help pave the way for a 3-0 win. The goal was his first in the competition and goal No500 overall in the continental showpiece that was first played in 1960.
669 – The number of passes Xavi made during the course of South Africa 2010, a stat which underlines his vision and metronomic ability to bring his team-mates into play. Having played more passes than any other player at the competition, Xavi finished with an impressive 81 per cent success rate.
1000 – In Spain’s EURO 2008 qualifier against Northern Ireland in Belfast on 6 September 2006, Xavi’s opener was goal No1000 in the history of La Selección. Unfortunately the celebrations were muted after the hosts prevailed 3-2 via a hat-trick from David Healy.
For how much longer does Xavi intend to continue gracing the international scene? “I don’t know, give me 100 more games and I’ll step aside, ok? Seriously though, I’ll be available for as long as I’m wanted. That works for me. At the moment I’m only looking as far as the EURO but maybe I’ll get to Brazil (2014) too. That wouldn’t be bad would it?” said La Máquina himself.
Given his career thus far, who would bet against him doing just that?