By Ben Hayward | Spanish Football Writer
Sergio Ramos will become the youngest European player to reach 100 caps in international football when he steps out for Spain on Friday in their World Cup 2014 qualifier against Finland in Gijon.
Ramos, who will be 27 next week, will be the first European to reach three figures at the age of 26, beating Germany striker Lukas Podolski, who reached the milestone at Euro 2012, by 21 days.
The Seville-born star made his Spain debut in 2005 and has been a fixture in Spain's defence since the international retirement of former Real Madrid right-back Michel Salgado in the lead-up to the 2006 World Cup.
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He has since moved across to a central defensive role for Real Madrid and also switched to the middle for Spain last summer as Carles Puyol missed Euro 2012 through injury. And in the absence of the Catalan centre-back, Ramos went on to form a successful partnership with Barcelona's Gerard Pique.
Spain were successful again in Poland and Ukraine, winning an unprecedented third successive major title to be hailed as perhaps the greatest side ever in the international game. And Ramos was one of a select bunch of players to have featured in all three title-winning teams, along with Iker Casillas, Cesc Fabregas, Andres Iniesta, Fernando Torres, Xabi Alonso and Xavi.
The 26-year-old has eight goals in his 99 appearances for Spain so far, but perhaps the most memorable moment was his 'Panenka' penalty against Portugal in last summer's semi-final shootout, which saw him emulate Italy's Andrea Pirlo with a carbon copy of the Juventus midfielder's chipped spot kick versus England earlier in the competition.
Ramos is the latest member of this record-breaking Spain side to reach three figures, following Casillas (143 caps), Xavi (119), Xabi Alonso (106), Torres (101) and Puyol (100).
"It fills me with pride to form part of footballing history," Ramos said earlier this week. "I would say it's a dream come true, ever since my debut against China in Salamanca. But then staying in the team is the hardest thing. I will always remember the three titles, because it's that level of success that gives you that extra little pleasure.
"Two European Championships and a World Cup at my age is a feat that I think will be hard to beat. I only hope this team can continue winning things."
Former Saudi Arabia striker Sami Al-Jaber is the youngest player in world football to have earned 100 caps, reaching the milestone against Norway in May 1998, at the age of 25 years, four months and 16 days.
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