Puyol to earn 100th cap as Spain tackle Uruguay in Qatar
By Onochie Anibeze, Qatar
Spain and Uruguay will meet on the international stage for the first time since August 2005, when they clash in a friendly today as captain Carles Puyol is set to earn his 100th cap.
The two sides will go head-to-head at Khalifa International Stadium, after the Qatar government paid the Spanish football federation close to US$4million to switch the friendly from Portugal to Doha.
The South American nation have never beaten Spain in five meetings, with three draws and two wins to the current European and world champions.
It will be a tough task for Oscar Tabarez’s men to break their duck against the top-ranked Spain, especially given the Uruguayans’ poor form.
They have lost three of their past four World Cup qualifiers, drawing the other, and have not kept a clean sheet in their past five overall.
A 4-1 loss to Bolivia stood out as a poor result in October, but they did bounce back to finish 2012 on a high with a 3-1 win over Poland in a friendly.
Spain, meanwhile, have been mixing World Cup qualifiers with friendlies against lesser nations, and regardless of opposition, they always seem to let their quality shine.
A 5-1 win over Panama last start was preceded by a 1-1 draw with France in qualifying, with Olivier Giroud denying them at the death.
Their other two qualifiers of note were 1-0 and 4-0 wins over Georgia and Belarus respectively, with neither as worthy opponents as Uruguay – who are ranked 16th.
Already ruled out for Spain is Real Madrid midfielder Xabi Alonso, after he pulled out with a groin injury.
Puyol won his first cap for Spain on 15 November 2000 against the Netherlands, and remained a regular fixture in the following years. He played for the nation at the 2000 Olympics, 2002 FIFA World Cup, UEFA Euro 2004, 2006 World Cup, Euro 2008, 2009 FIFA Confederations Cup and the 2010 World Cup.
At Euro 2008 Puyol, 34,started throughout the vast majority of the competition, as the defensive backline only conceded two goals in five games in an eventual final win against Germany. He was named in the Team of the Tournament alongside defensive partner Carlos Marchena, of Valencia CF. He started in three out of five at the 2009 FIFA Confederations Cup, and captained the team when Iker Casillas was rested for the last group stage match; as Spain finished third, he and four other teammates were named in the Team of the Tournament.
At the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, Puyol started every match and played almost every minute (he was substituted by Marchena in the 84th minute of the quarter-final against Paraguay). He scored the only goal in the semifinal against Germany with a powerful header from a corner taken by Barcelona teammate Xavi, sending the national team through to their first World Cup final, and scoring his third international goal in 89 matches; in the decisive match, he played the full 120 minutes as Spain defeated the Netherlands 1–0.
On 1 August 2010, 32-year Puyol announced that he would continue to play for the national team for at least another two years. He missed the Euro 2012 tournament due to a knee injury contracted in a league game against RCD Espanyol in early May, which required surgery and five to six weeks recuperation.
Uruguay have confirmed Edinson Cavani, Diego Forlan and Luis Suarez will be in the squad for their trip to the Middle East.