Toulouse (France) (AFP) – Spain have rallied round goalkeeper David De Gea over sex scandal claims and are focused on defending their European title, key defender Sergio Ramos said Sunday.
Vincente Del Bosque’s men begin their bid for a record third successive European Championship title against Group D opponents the Czech Republic in Toulouse on Monday.
But preparations have been overshadowed by a media report that Manchester United goalkeeper De Gea organised a party at which two women were forced to have sex with two footballers.
De Gea has strongly denied the claims as “a lie” designed to damage his reputation.
Real Madrid defender Ramos said that De Gea has “all our support” as he waits to see if he will get a place in the Spanish team.
The United star had been in a close batle with star veteran Iker Casillas for the number one spot.
“Certainly, it wasn’t very pleasant news to recieve about one of your teammates,” Ramos said in Toulouse on Sunday when asked about the atmosphere in the Spain camp.
“He (De Gea) has already said all he wanted to say about it, and although we have nothing to add, he has all our support.
– Del Bosque’s big pick –
“Now, we’re just want to go out and play. We’re the title holders and we have every intention of defending the trophy.”
With questions remaining over the title credentials of Del Bosque’s squad two years after a first-round exit from the World Cup, the true impact of the De Gea affair remains to be seen.
Del Bosque said he will announce Monday whether De Gea or 167-cap captain Casillas, a hero of Spain’s three major championship triumphs between 2008 and 2012, will start against the Czech Republic.
If Del Bosque chooses Casillas, it could be considered punishment for De Gea. Picking De Gea could be a strong signal that Spain are fully behind the 25-year-old old ‘keeper.
Ramos, fresh from helping Real Madrid to the Champions League title, said Spain are now impervious to talk of the affair: “There’s a great atmosphere in the squad and we tend to give support to a player if he needs it.”
But he admitted Spain are taking nothing for granted. After the Czechs on Monday, Spain face Turkey and then their biggest group rivals, Croatia, who beat Turkey 1-0 on Sunday.
“For a long time we had a fantastic run of success and because of that people got used to us winning,” he said.
“But in football you can’t always win. We’ll give our very best, but our heads will be kept high no matter what the result.”
Barcelona midfielder Andres Iniesta, meanwhile, said a third consecutive crown “would be unbelievable”.
Though the new look Spain have yet to make an international impact, Iniesta said the team are aiming to make amends for their World Cup failure.
“The new players are all quality players,” said Iniesta.
He added: “We suffered the disappointment of Brazil, so we’re very motivated this time around. We’re the defending champions, and although every situation is different, we have plenty of confidence in this squad.”
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