As he prepares to take part in his first World Cup finals, Cesar Azpilicueta hopes Spain’s success in recent years will give them an advantage over their rivals in Brazil…
Cesar Azpilicueta has underlined the importance of taking one game at a time as he prepares to head to Brazil as part of Spain’s World Cup squad, with Vicente del Bosque’s side bidding to become the first nation to successfully defend the trophy since Brazil in 1962.
Having won the European Championships in both 2012 and 2008, as well as the 2010 World Cup, Spain understandably head into the tournament as one of the favourites.
Azpilicueta, however, was part of the side beaten 3-0 by Brazil in the final of the Confederations Cup a year ago, and the versatile Chelsea defender is eager to avoid a repeat.
‘For every player it’s a dream to play in a World Cup,’ he tells the official Chelsea website. ‘It’s in Brazil and Spain won the last one so obviously it’s a massive tournament which everybody is looking forward to.
‘We have experience from last year, when we played in the Confederations Cup in Brazil. The World Cup is obviously different but we know what we can expect, although we will have to adapt to the conditions very quickly.’
Spain cruised through their qualification group, taking 20 points from a possible 24 without losing a game.
Their recent record in the major competitions inevitably brings an element of pressure from supporters back home, but Azpilicueta is confident the world and European champions can make it another successful campaign.
‘We have the feeling of doing the right things after winning two European Championships’ and the World Cup,’ he says.
‘We also played against Brazil in the final of the Confederations Cup, so what we’ve done in the past is very good. It’s very difficult to keep winning but we will try, we know the way we want to play and hopefully our style of play will help us achieve what we want to.
‘It’s difficult but in the last World Cup Spain began by losing against Switzerland, which nobody expected. That tells you every game is very difficult, you can’t look any further than the first game, which for us is against Holland, and that’s all we can focus on for now.’
At club level, the 2013/14 season was one to remember for the Spaniard on a personal note. After struggling for minutes earlier in the campaign he was eventually given an opportunity out of position at left-back, impressing to such an extent he kept his place in the side and won the club’s Players’ Player of the Year award.
Azpilicueta is, by trade, a right-back, but he is aware his versatility could possibly give him an advantage when it comes to international selection.
‘I think so,’ he agrees. ‘When you have a group of 23 and a lot of games it helps having players who can play in different positions because it helps you in terms of bringing other players into the group who play in different positions, that maybe you need more. This is what I’ve been working towards and I’m happy to play where the manager needs me.’
Having not been selected for Euro 2012, the World Cup will be Azpilicueta’s first appearance at a major international tournament, with the magnitude of the opportunity not lost on him.
‘You play for your country with the emotional feelings of everyone,’ explains the 24-year-old.
‘When Spain won the last World Cup you could see throughout the country the hope they gave everyone. When you’ve had a tough, intense season, and then you have the challenge of the World Cup, you have to focus on that.’