Saturday 17 December 2016, 08:47

Casillas: Why can’t I play at Russia 2018?

Iker Casillas still dreams of playing at the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™. The 35-year-old has won a record 167 caps for Spain and was their second-choice goalkeeper at UEFA EURO 2016.

Casillas hoped the July appointment of Julen Lopetegui, who signed him for Porto in 2015, would see him unseat David De Gea for a spot in the starting XI, but instead he hasn’t even made the 50-year-old’s squads. De Gea, Pepe Reina and Sergio Asenjo made the last one, while Lopetegui has previously called up Adrian and Sergio Rico.

“I have never given up,” Casillas told Porto Canal. “To avoid problems I stepped aside. Lopetegui told me that he was going to bet on David de Gea and I accepted it, but I haven’t left the Spanish national team yet.

“Why can’t I play at the World Cup in Russia? I played the entire qualification phase for the EURO and it was decided to make De Gea the first-choice. The dream hasn’t been taken away. I look good. If I had been playing poorly I’d be the first to say it.”

Casillas has conceded just six goals in 14 games in the 2016/17 Portuguese Liga. He also kept three consecutive clean sheets to power Porto into the UEFA Champions League’s Round of 16, where they will meet Juventus in a tie that pits Casillas against Gigi Buffon in a battle of goalkeeping greats.

Casillas, who helped a Spain squad including Carlos Marchena and Xavi win the FIFA U-20 World Cup in 1999, made his senior debt, aged just 19, the following year. He kept five clean sheets during La Roja’s triumphant South Africa 2010 campaign, and finished it with the adidas Golden Glove.

Spain lead Group G in Russia 2018 qualifying, above Italy on goal difference and Israel by a point. They resume their campaign at home to the Israelis in March, before facing France in a friendly at the Stade de France.