For Spain's national soccer team, the road to Brazil included a brief stop in Baltimore.
The European powerhouse, among the favorites to win the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil, arrived at Baltimore-Washington International Airport on Monday night to a water-cannon salute from the BWI Fire and Rescue Department and to hundreds of fans who crowded the terminal to catch a glimpse of their favorite stars.
Ranked the world’s No. 1 team by FIFA, soccer’s governing body, Spain will play against El Salvador on Saturday at FedEx Field as part of the Road to Brazil, a series of matches hosted on American soil. The contest will serve as a final tune-up before the Europeans open their World Cup campaign on June 13 against the team they beat to win the title in 2010, the Netherlands.
Most World Cup-bound teams schedule international friendlies to help coaches solidify tactics and determine their 11 starters come tournament time, and several have elected to do so in the United States. Those include Nigeria, Greece and the Ivory Coast, which all have remaining games around the country.
Sixteen of the 23 players on Spain’s roster for this summer were on the team that won the 2010 World Cup, including goalkeeper Iker Casillas, who drew the biggest cheers from fans at BWI. Many, like striker Fernando Torres, paused to sign autographs and take pictures.
But the majority of the fans were content to chant messages of support and reach for high fives as the Spanish players were escorted onto the team bus.
According to an official from the Spanish airline Iberia, which provides the team’s transportation, Spain will depart BWI on Sunday morning en route to Brazil.