Moscow: Former Spain goalkeeper Iker Casillas, who captained the national team to its World Cup win in 2010, defended David de Gea, his successor between the posts, from critics of his performance in Russia so far and said he would be a crucial feature in the starting XI in games to come.
Critics accused De Gea, Spain's first-choice goalkeeper in the FIFA World Cup in Russia, of putting on an underwhelming display in the first two games of the this year's competition, which saw La Roja draw 3-3 with Portugal in the opening Group B match followed by a nervy 1-0 victory over Iran on Wednesday night.
"I think that (criticism) is normal when the bar is set too high, because people expect maximum effort, but what is truly important is what comes next," Casillas, long-time Real Madrid stalwart who now plies his trade with Porto, said following the inauguration of the Football Park in Moscow's Red Square.
In his opinion, what was important for Spain in the group stages was simply to ensure its ascent to the knockout rounds, and once that goal was achieved, no-one would remember any apparent mistakes De Gea made.
The Manchester United keeper was singled out by Spain's sporting media for failing to block a powerful long-range shot from Portugal star striker Cristiano Ronaldo in the first game.
Casillas said he was optimistic Spain could reach the final, which is to be played at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow on July 15.