Carles Puyol's return to the Spain
squad after a lengthy injury lay-off drew warm words of support
from coach Vicente del Bosque and captain Iker Casillas on
The shaggy-haired Barcelona defender has been a fixture in
the centre of the Spanish defence during their recent successes
at Euro 2008 and in the 2010 World Cup, but a knee injury has
kept him on the sidelines for the last eight months.
The 33-year-old last appeared for Spain in the 4-0 friendly
defeat against Portugal 11 months ago, but is likely to earn his
95th cap in the Euro 2012 qualifiers either against the Czech
Republic in Prague on Friday or in Alicante against Scotland
"We are pleased and very happy for him, because we know he
has suffered a lot, and mainly in silence," Casillas told a news
conference in Prague.
"He is a reference for everyone who comes into the national
team for his professionalism."
Puyol said he had considered retiring in a recent television
interview but has slowly been working his way back to fitness
and has been used sparingly by club coach Pep Guardiola at the
start of the current campaign.
"We are pleased he can return to play with us again, and
that he is back in the squad," Del Bosque said.
"There is no reason for him to have lost any of his
understanding with [Barca and Spain team-mate] Gerard Pique.
Ideally they will return to play together for us and for their
"There are still many months to go until Euro 2102 and we
will take it step by step."
Puyol won his first cap against Netherlands in 2000, and has
scored three goals, including the thundering header against
Germany which fired Spain into the World Cup finals last year.
Spain have already qualified from Group I to defend their
European title in Poland and Ukraine, but play the two sides
vying for second spot over the next few days.
"We know we have to be good professionals and sportsmen to
defend our reputation and because we will be the arbiters of
where the two teams finish in the group," Del Bosque added.
"Let there be no doubt. The worst thing a team could do
would be to play without a competitive spirit."
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