Saturday, December 29, 2012

29 December 2001 - Alonso's International Debut

On 29 December 2001, Xabi Alonso made his full international debut. And it wasn't for Spain.

The 20-year old midfielder, then in his second season with Real Sociedad, had played for the Spanish U-18s, making a solitary appearance in 2000. Although he had not taken the pitch for them since then, Alonso, who was born in the Basque city of Tolosa, also qualified to play for the Basque Country national team. And in 2001, manager José Ángel Iribar called Alonso up for a friendly against Ghana.

The teams met at the Estadio San Mamés in Bilbao, where the visitors took an early lead with a goal from midfielder Derek Boateng in the 13th minute. Alonso remained on the bench for the first half, then came on at the start of the second with the Basques still down 0-1.

Alonso's entrance, along with several other subs made at the same time, turned the tide for the home side. They equalized in the 46th minute with a strike from Jon Pérez, then got two goals from Óscar de Paula (60', 67') to lead 3-1. Ghana's Alex Takyi-Mensah pulled one back in the 70th minute, but that was the last of the day's goals and the Basques won 3-2.

Although he has since become a regular starter for Spain, with 106 appearances since 2003, he continues to turn out for the Basque Country on occasion, most recently in December 2011.

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