Spain 1 - Portugal 1
(Cañizares 65'); Curro Torres (Michel Salgado 46'); Puyol (Téllez
65'), Nadal, Sergi (Juanfran 65'); Joaquín, Xavi (Iván Helguera
46'), Baraja (Valerón 46'), Vicente (Mendieta 46'); Morientes (Diego
Tristán 46'), Tamudo (Munitis 65'). 4-4-2.
From our international correspondents Borja Pantzov and Goran Arsic.
The big sensation in Spain at the moment is 'Operación Triunfo', a cross between Big Brother and Fame, where selected volunteers enter a training academy and a television audience decides who are the best in a series of weekly votes. The winner (or maybe the loser?) will represent Spain at the Eurovision Song Contest. Why are we telling you this? Well the programme is beating all records with it's nightly shows, and to make it interesting they invited the Spanish football squad to join the students on live television earlier in the week. Camacho's own Operación Triunfo' starts now, our team having qualified for the World Cup finals, and the match against Portugal is an opportunity to experiment with new young talent and give some of the older ones a last chance to prove themselves. Maybe that is why Juanfran is the only one with the courage to try his hand at singing in front of the television cameras, just in case he needs a new career after losing his place at Celta to Sylvinho.
Anyway, off we go to see the new batch at Espanyol's Montjuic stadium (sorry Luis Companys stadium - grounds nowadays seem to change their names more often than Ronnie Biggs). After the papers report five or six new names, in the end Camacho only brings in one new cap, Betis winger Joaquín, who is proving to be a real sensation this season. The match is also interesting as Luis Figo is returning to Barcelona once again, and he receives a mixed reception, boos from the Barcelona fans and applause from the Espanyol fans, who are amongst a good crowd. Morientes heads a good chance wide early on, but Portugal take the lead from a Figo free kick with half an hour gone, Jorge Costa heading the ball over Casillas who should never have come out of his goal. Portugal's keeper Ricardo saves from Vicente a few minutes later, but Spain draw level through Morientes, who turns the ball past the keeper after Puyol plays on Xavi's free kick from left of the area. Six goals now in four days for the Real Madrid striker!
Camacho makes five changes at the break and four more twenty minutes in to the half, with only Nadal and Joaquín playing the full 90 minutes. Tristán goes close twice, and half time substitute keeper Quim tips a quick Mendieta free kick over the bar (good to see him back and playing well after his nightmare in Italy). Figo finally goes off to a general protest from the public after taking out Juanfran in a hard tackle moments earlier, and upsets the crowd even further when he applauds back. In the end though a fair result, and we have now gone 43 years since we last beat our Westerly neighbours. We may have a chance to do so in this summer's World Cup, with a possible tie in the quarter finals in South Korea if we both get through. The Operación Triunfo academy have been asked to perform Spain's song for the competition, and after a somewhat disappointing performance here it remains to be seen whether Juanfran and a couple of the others stay behind to join the attractive young men and women in the recording studio. Come to think of it, I haven't seen Goran since that night. And who is that rather lecherous looking figure at the back of the set on tonight's show with his eyes fixed on the blonde? Well I never..... . (13.02.02)