How is the team feeling right now?
Losing against Switzerland definitely hurt us. We had been on a long winning streak and all of a sudden came an unexpected loss. That loss made us much stronger. We were anxious because we knew that if we failed again we’d be out of the competition. We were worried that we’d be the biggest failure of the World Cup. But the team knew how to overcome that problem and from here on out you’ll see the best Spain.
Cruyff and Luis Aragones criticize the team for playing with a double defensive pivot…
In football, when you don’t win everybody debates and when you win nobody complains… The coach is looking for more security. The offensive talent is the same but we are following in the steps of other great national teams that look to be a little more defensively sound while not forgetting about our other qualities. Our football is based on talent and the system we play gives us security.
Do you understand why some people blamed Busquets after the game against Switzerland?
‘Busi’ gives us equilibrium and he’s one of the best players in the world in his position. I won’t say that this World Cup made him mature more because he was already mature. He’s always well positioned, it’s amazing. But as you already know, when you win everything is great.
Do you think Xavi is playing out of position?
No, he’s played further up on the pitch many times before. It’s true that now he doesn’t touch the ball as much but he’s especially dangerous being so close to goal. He can give that final, lethal pass or score himself. Xavi is doing just fine.
Did Iniesta liberate himself with that goal?
He’s had a tough season. He’s suffered, like anyone who gets injured, but Andres is one of the best players in the world and he’s now feeling better.
Villa has already scored three goals…
Villa helps the national team in the same way that he’ll help Barca: goals and compromise. He plays with confidence and desire, he’s competitive and he has that special instinct for scoring goals. He’s also smart and makes things look easy on the pitch.
Portugal or Cristiano Ronaldo?
The rival is Portugal, a very compact team that has one of the best players in the world. But we’ll definitely stick to our style of play.
What do you think of Messi’s performances?
Incredible! They’ve hurt Messi a lot. He’s a player that’s always committed to his team and they constantly doubted him. I don’t understand how someone could doubt Leo, it’s amazing. He’s leading a great Argentina and I’m happy for him.
[This is a translation of an interview between Puyol and Catalan sports paper El Mundo Deportivo. You can find the original here.]