César Azpilicueta started a Spain match for just the fourth time in amost two years this weekend, but perhaps more significantly than that, he played in yet another (slightly) different position.
We’ve seen him play right (full-/wing-)back, right wing, left (full-/wing-)back, and right-center back in a back three in his six seasons at Stamford Bridge, but we’ve never quite seen him play as a classic center back in a back-four. But on Sunday, that’s exactly where he lined up, alongside Barcelona’s Gerard Pique, with Jordi Alba and goalscorer Álvaro Odriozola on the flanks.
By all accounts, Azpilicueta handled himself quite well in his new position, even as Spain struggled a bit to create consistent goalscoring opportunities and settled for a 1-1 draw with Switzerland after David de Gea spilled the ball and gifted them an equalizer. (That’s not a typo).
Azpi also handled himself quite well in the pre-match press conference, when former Chelsea striker and master troll Diego Costa threw him a curveball regarding Zidane.
Diego Costa claims Zidane got fired. If that's the case, Cesar Azpilicueta clearly didn't know. pic.twitter.com/kHch65CtsU— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) June 1, 2018
Meanwhile, in slightly less shocking news, Willian started, Neymar scored on his return (Willian with the excellent secondary assist), and Brazil won 2-0 against Croatia at Anfield. Willian, who played the first 80 minutes, has missed just two of Brazil’s games since the last World Cup and should maintain that streak all the way through this one.
Neymar may be getting all the headlines, but Tite’s got the well-oiled Selecão right where they need to be. Unless their biggest star suddenly starts concentrating on the wrong things, like agent Luka Modrić telling him that they at Real Madrid are all waiting for him.
Neymar Jr and Luka Modrić exchanged jerseys after the match.pic.twitter.com/8hHGybJ5s9— Brazil Football (@BrazilEdition) June 3, 2018
Earlier this weekend, in addition to England vs. Nigeria, Belgium and Germany also got their preparations fully underway, though in less than spectacular fashion with a 0-0 draw against Portugal and a 2-1 loss against Austria, respectively. Courtois and Hazard both started for Belgium, with Eden replaced by brother Thorgan for the final ten minutes, and Antonio Rüdiger got the nod for Germany, completing the full 90.