Each night or morning before Spain training begins, a range of outfield players – Gerard Piqué, Fernando Torres and Álvaro Negredo – take turns in goal so that their team-mates can take pot-shots at them.
In the case of Negredo, heavily fancied by Spain's newspapers to start against Italy in the lead-up to that initial Group C game, that action has had to make up for what he hoped he would be getting at UEFA EURO 2012 – game time.
Negredo began up front in Spain's last friendly against China in Seville, where he plays his club football with Sevilla FC, and the way Vicente del Bosque praised the Madrid-born forward's mobility and link-up play suggested he had a distinct chance of starting the champions' defence of their title. Instead, Torres and Cesc Fàbregas have been selected while Negredo – although called on to warm up against the Republic of Ireland – has had to bide his time.
He claims that is no great hardship, and knows exactly what type of player he is up against. "The coach has three outright strikers here, and each of us are pretty distinct," the 26-year-old said. "Fernando [Torres] is very quick and mobile and that makes him very powerful over the last few metres in front of goal. That's important for Spain. Fernando Llorente is big and strong and when a game is going against us, when our opponents won't let us dominate, he provides an out-ball which we don't normally use, but which can be effective. As for me, I try to link well with my team-mates and be in the right place at the right time, and that's what I'm trying to make the coach see!"
Negredo got in touch with his club-mate Ivan Rakitić after Croatia drew with Italy to set up a Group C decider against Spain in Gdansk on Monday. "I congratulated him on their game and we spoke about other things, like his family and how he was, because we get on well at Sevilla," he explained. "We didn't talk about playing each other in the last group game."
Having brought Jesús Navas, Santi Cazorla, Javi Martínez and Fàbregas on from the bench already, Del Bosque has shown that there will be opportunities for substitutes, but – given his training-ground sideline – should Negredo consider himself a potential back-up keeper too?
"No, all the shots go past me when I'm in goal before training," he joked. "But if Iker Casillas or Víctor Valdés were sent off, they'd need to watch out for their place because there are one or two good deputies – Sergio Ramos is probably the best."
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