PALMA DE MALLORCA, Spain (AP) — Goalkeeper Iker Casillas had already lost his starting job for Real Madrid. Now it appears he has lost it for Spain as well.
Coach Vicente del Bosque chose Barcelona's Victor Valdes over team captain Casillas for Friday's 2-1 win against Belarus in a World Cup qualifier that left Spain on the brink of sealing its pass to the 2014 tournament.
Xavi Hernandez took the captain armband from Casillas and went on to open the scoring before Alvaro Negredo secured the win. Casillas has been Spain's regular starter for years and helped the team achieve its unprecedented run of two straight European championships and the 2010 World Cup.
And Del Bosque had stuck with Casillas despite the goalkeeper being reduced to a backup at Real Madrid by Jose Mourinho last season, a decision largely maintained by Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti this season except in the Champions League.
Del Bosque had started Casillas against Finland last month and only given Valdes the nod in a critical 1-0 at France in March because Casillas was injured. But Del Bosque said that Casillas' recent lack of playing and training time had influenced his decision to go with Valdes, who is having perhaps the best season of his career.
"These were different situations," Del Bosque said. "For Finland, I had all my goalkeepers arriving at the same level. But for this game Iker had gotten hurt at Galatasaray and had only practically played one game in the last month."
Del Bosque would not say who would start Tuesday's qualifier againt Georgia when Spain will be playing to clinch its place in Brazil. In another surprising move, Del Bosque started Swansea forward Miguel "Michu" Perez in his first international game.