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Mourinho gives backing to under-fire Iker Casillas

Spains Iker Casillas was criticised for his performance in the 5-1 defeat by Netherlands. Picture: Getty Images

Spains Iker Casillas was criticised for his performance in the 5-1 defeat by Netherlands. Picture: Getty Images

  • by MIKE COLLETT IN RIO DE JANEIRO
 

Spain goalkeeper and captain Iker Casillas has received backing from an unexpected quarter after his woeful World Cup Group B performance against the Netherlands on Friday – his former coach at Real Madrid, Jose Mourinho.

Mourinho, who dropped Casillas from the Real side during his final season in charge in 2012-13 and was reported to have fallen out with the club captain, said he would not discard Casillas just because of one poor showing.

Holders Spain suffered a 5-1 loss against the Dutch in Salvador, their worst drubbing at a World Cup finals in more than 60 years, and need a win against Chile tonight to get their bid for a second straight title back on track.

“The goalkeeper position is a very specific one and I wouldn’t like to make a change just because of one poor game,” Mourinho told Yahoo! Sports.

“I would only change something after a bad run of form that clearly shows a ’keeper lacks confidence and stability and his body language suggests it would be better to change,” added the Portuguese. “Iker has had a fine run with the Spanish national team and he has the confidence of his coach. One bad game is not sufficient reason to change ’keepers.”

Spain coach Vicente del Bosque is unlikely to drop Casillas, whose performances in helping Spain win Euro 2008, the 2010 World Cup and Euro 2012 earned him the nickname “Saint Iker” among fans of the Iberian nation.

Del Bosque’s options are in any case limited as one of his two reserve ’keepers, David De Gea, is injured. Pepe Reina is the other ’keeper in the squad.

The World Cup final is still almost a month away but as far as Andres Iniesta and Fernando Torres are concerned, Spain are already facing a final in tonight’s make-or-break match.

“We just have to forget what happened against the Dutch,” midfielder Iniesta said at a press conference at the Maracana where tonight’s game will unfold. “This is our first final, then we face another one against Australia and although we faced a similar situation in South Africa when we lost our first match, this is a very difficult situation.

“We have to win, there is no alternative. And we have to play it as if it was the World Cup final that’s the only way to win it. Of course we are equipped for that.

“We all know we did not play well in the first match, especially in the second half and it is difficult to explain what happened. But although we have not started well, we still have the chance to change the situation.”

Torres was asked whether his presence at the press conference meant he was playing. “You better ask the coach that, I don’t know,” he joked, before saying it did not matter if he played or not as the entire squad of 23 players and all the technical staff were united in their common goal.

“We will win it together as a team or lose it together,” he added. “We just have to be very positive in this situation.”

Spain face the possibility of becoming only the third defending champions to be eliminated from the competition at the first stage following Brazil in 1966 and France in 2002.”

Chile’s all-out attacking style may look rash to outsiders, but the team have serious ambitions after their flying start to the World Cup, according to midfielder Arturo Vidal.

“A lot of people say our offensive form of play makes us a somewhat suicidal team, and yes it’s true, but we also came with the aim of trying to be world champions,” Vidal said.

Chile beat Australia 3-1 in their opening Group B game, but face far more formidable rivals tonight. In their last ten games against Spain, Chile have drawn two and lost eight.

 

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