Belarus vs. Spain  0 - 4

Article

Del Bosque praises ´complete´ Spain performance

13 October 2012 01:42

Spain coach Vicente Del Bosque was delighted that his side never allowed Belarus to settle in a 4-0 thrashing on Friday night.

An early goal from Jordi Alba set the world and European champions on their way to victory in their World Cup Group I qualification match in Minsk, with Pedro scoring a fine hat-trick in the win.

As often happens, Spain dominated possession during the game, and this control was something Del Bosque highlighted when speaking after the match.

"We played well and controlled the match," Del Bosque told the Spanish federation's official website.

"They (Belarus) could not play to our level, and never felt comfortable on the pitch.

"It was a good game, very complete. The players felt very comfortable from the beginning, linked well, played with depth, and recovered the ball well. The talent and quality of our players did the rest."

When asked about the performance of Pedro, Del Bosque said: "He's playing very well for his club. Pedro is fresh, dynamic, and has important offensive aggressiveness that breaks the mould slightly, and allows us to play on the front foot."

Sergio Ramos was substituted in the 70th minute for Raul Albiol, while David Silva also made way for Andres Iniesta in the second half, despite the Manchester City attacker enjoying a decent game.

"Sergio had a small knock, and though he did not have to come off, a change was preferable, though he wanted to keep playing," Del Bosque said when asked whether his side had any injury concerns ahead of next week's clash with France.

"Silva had a card and I wanted to distribute the playing time between Silva and Andres Iniesta."

Spain take on France on Tuesday night and Del Bosque was full of praise for their next opponents ahead of the match, despite Les Bleus suffering a shock 1-0 friendly loss to Japan on Friday.

"It will be a very difficult game because France have an extraordinary squad," he said.

"They have strength in depth in attack, and have very good players elsewhere who are calm but with physical power.

"It will be a difficult game."

Article

World Cup qualifying: Belarus 0 Spain 4

12 October 2012 22:39

A hat-trick by Pedro helped Spain extend their unbeaten run in World Cup qualification to 47 matches with a 4-0 win over Belarus.

In a comfortable clash for Vicente Del Bosque's side at the Dinamo Stadium, Jordi Alba gave his side the lead in the 12th minute before Pedro opened his account nine minutes later.

And the Barcelona man kept finding the back of the net as he produced two goals within three minutes during the second half to round off a quality night for the reigning world and European champions.

Right from the outset Spain were in control as they wasted two good chances in the first four minutes through Cesc Fabregas and David Silva.

But it did not take the visitors long to take the lead, as Alba finished off a wonderful move involving Xavi and Pedro.

The full-back passed inside to Xavi, who then rifled a low ball into Pedro. The attacker had his back to goal but somehow flicked an unorthodox pass through to the overlapping Alba who had continued his run.

Xavi looked to be offside but there was no flag coming from the linesman, allowing Xavi to dribble past Belarus goalkeeper Sergei Veremko and then slot the ball into an empty net.

In the 21st minute Pedro increased Spain's lead, dinking a neat shot past Veremko in the area after being set up by an inch-perfect through-ball from Silva.

As Silva pulled the strings in midfield, Spain kept attacking Belarus but failed to hit the back of the net again until the 69th minute.

In a classy counter, Xavi took four defenders out of the contest with a quality through-ball that Pedro raced on to before dispatching another looping effort over Veremko and into the far corner of the net.

Three minutes later Spain posted a fourth, Pedro completing his hat-trick with a close-range finish after some calamitous defending from Belarus allowed Fabregas to steal possession and set up the attack.

Belarus had a chance to reduce the deficit in the 76th minute through Stanislav Dragun, but he fired wastefully over Iker Casillas' crossbar after being put clean through by Sergei Kislyak.

Spain substitute David Villa nearly added a fifth for his side late on, but the Barcelona forward could only watch on as his powerful effort from 15 yards came crashing back off the crossbar.

The victory means it is two wins from two matches for Spain in Group I, with France their next opponent on Tuesday.

Belarus, meanwhile, have lost all three of their matches so far and face Georgia also on Tuesday.

Article

World Cup qualifying preview: Belarus v Spain

12 October 2012 09:55

World and European champions Spain travel to Minsk on Friday to face Belarus in a 2014 FIFA World Cup qualifier.

Spain's incredible 23-match winning streak in European Championship and World Cup qualifiers means they are heavily favoured to win, especially with Belarus in lacklustre form of late.

Georgy Kondratyev's side have made a poor start to qualifying, losing to both Georgia and France in Group I.

And they will have their hands full against a Spain side who battled to a 1-0 win in Georgia in their only qualifier so far.

Spain have an embarrassment of riches to choose from, with midfielder Juan Mata - who has starred for Chelsea in recent English Premier League matches - unfortunate to miss out on selection.

Athletic Bilbao forward Fernando Llorente has also been left out, while Barcelona defender Gerard Pique is absent due to a foot injury.

Spain manager Vicente Del Bosque admitted he has selection headaches every time he picks his squad but said he had no space to include Mata on this occasion.

"We have a problem with quantity, not quality," Del Bosque said.

"It pains me to leave out some of those who haven't been called up, because there are others who could have been here.

"He (Mata) wasn't in the previous list because we agreed with Chelsea that he had to have a break which he didn't have in the summer. But we haven't any space to bring him in this time."

The Belarusian soccer association have offered their players a win bonus more than triple what they normally receive but stopping the likes of Xavi Hernandez, Andres Iniesta, David Villa and company is easier said than done.

Belarus are likely to play a 4-5-1 formation in a bid to strangle Spain's possession-based game, with former Barcelona and Arsenal man Aleksandr Hleb sure to be the playmaker in midfielder.

BATE Borisov forward Vitaly Rodionov will lead the attack on his own, while Del Bosque is set to use his favoured 4-3-3 formation, with Villa and Fernando Torres his most likely options if the former Real Madrid coach opts for a traditional centre forward.

Belarus coach Londratyev recently conceded it is 'almost impossible' to win the ball off Spain and you can be sure that they will dictate terms.

That usually converts into chances and goals, with Belarus needing to do something extra special to stop Spain's superb winning run.

Article

Del Bosque makes no apologies over Spain selection

11 October 2012 02:22

Vicente del Bosque insists that he will pick the best players available to him, even if that means dropping renowned stars.

Chelsea's Juan Mata and Athletic Bilbao's Fernando Llorente were among those who failed to make Spain's latest 23-man squad for their 2014 World Cup qualifiers.

And the 61-year-old adopted a pragmatic response to those questioning his selection.

"We have 23 players which I think are a lot for two matches, but we have to cover any possible eventuality," he said.

"We aren't here to please people, but to field the best team."

When questioned about Mata's absence, Del Bosque explained that it was an area where Spain had an abundance of quality.

"It's due to competition for places. He (Mata) plays in an area where we have a lot of players," he said.

"I can't think of another excuse. He's playing very well in the Premier League."

The former Real Madrid coach then revealed his joy at being able to call upon the services of David Villa following his return from injury.

"I think that Villa is happy, but I'm sure he'll demand more playing time here and at his club," Del Bosque explained.

"What's important is that he has recovered; that he's well. It's been a long injury.

"In addition, he's the goalscorer and the most renowned striker we have."

Friday's opponents Belarus have lost both of their opening qualifying matches, but Del Bosque is refusing to underestimate Georgi Kondratiev's side.

"We have to be careful and make no mistakes. The Belarus team is made up of a group of talented youngsters from the Under-21 team mixed with some veterans," he said.

"They had France against the ropes in Saint Denis, and Georgia as well."

Article

Spain´s Martinez calls for maximum focus

9 October 2012 20:12

Javi Martinez believes Spain are still the team to beat in international football and must maintain their high levels of motivation.

The world and European champions have been the outstanding team in international football over the last five years, but Martinez is wary of complacency as Spain prepare for 2014 FIFA World Cup qualifiers against Belarus and France.

"Spain are the team to beat. It is an extra motivation for the opposition and for ourselves we must match that," he told reporters ahead of his side's game in Minsk on Friday.

"Much of the qualification is at stake and a win would be an important step. It is important to continue on our current path - it seems that it is now easier to win matches but it is not."

The clash with Belarus is next on the agenda for Vicente del Bosque's side, but many supporters are already looking forward to Tuesday's meeting with France, and Bayern Munch's Martinez believes it will provide a stern test for the Euro 2012 champions.

"They have continued with a nucleus of players from last year, players with great potential," he said.

"It will be very difficult, they are a difficult opponent and they are a power of European football that are going to make us sweat."

With Gerard Pique injured, Sergio Ramos and Raul Albiol are the only recognised centre-backs available to Del Bosque, but Martinez feels he could provide cover should one of the pair suffer an injury.

"Last year thanks to Marcelo Bielsa I acted as cover in defence and grew into that position. At first I struggled but I then got used to it," Martinez said, referring to his final season with Athletic Bilbao.

"I'm playing as a midfielder for Bayern and I'm available to the coach. I have not spoken with him yet, but it would not affect me if I moved back to defence and I will be happy to play there if needed."