La Roja struggled for scores recently but put four past Luxembourg to confirm spot
Defending champions Spain secured their place in next year’s European Championships in France with a 4-0 win over minnows Luxembourg thanks to doubles from Santi Cazorla and Paco Alcacer on Friday.
However Spain’s joy was overshadowed by injuries suffered by David Silva and Alvaro Morata, while Gerard Pique was once again jeered by the home support.
“We have had difficult moments, but fortunately we reacted well as a team. Generally we have defended pretty well and I think today we also created a lot of chances and should have scored some more,” said Spain coach Vicente Del Bosque.
The players were also similarly relieved to finally book their place in next year’s tournament.
“We’ve managed to qualify at last. We knew we couldn’t be complacent, we played very well and managed to get the win,” Cazorla told Television Espanola. “The coach showed his faith in me and it went well with the two goals.”
Due to an injury to Sergio Ramos, the hosts started without a Real Madrid player in the line-up for the first time ever in a European qualifier.
However, it was the treatment once again dished out to Pique for mocking Madrid during Barcelona’s treble-winning celebrations last season and his public support of Catalan independence that caused controversy.
Pique’s teammates and Del Bosque appeared dismayed that their calls for the centre-back to be supported had fallen on deaf ears for the second consecutive home fixture.
“The truth is it is uncomfortable,” added Cazorla. “You don’t notice it so much on the pitch because you are concentrating on the game. Gerard has a strong character and we hope it doesn’t happen again.”
England extend perfect record in qualifying
Theo Walcott strengthened his claim to a central striking role as England defeated Estonia 2-0 at Wembley to make it nine wins in nine the qualifiers.
With record goal-scorer Wayne Rooney injured, Harry Kane led the line for England but it was Walcott who opened the scoring in a drab game before Raheem Sterling struck a second goal late on.
It kept Roy Hodgson’s side on course to become only the sixth team to win all of their matches in a European Championship qualifying campaign ahead of Monday’s final game away to Lithuania.
“We won, that’s always a major positive. We knew it would be a hard 90 minutes,” said Hodgson, who handed a debut to 19-year-old Tottenham Hotspur midfielder Delle Ali. “We were unlucky we didn’t score a few more. We had the possession in the final third enough, but the ninth victory out of nine was everything here.”
While England’s planning for next year’s tournament in France is well under way, Slovenia’s draw with Lithuania in the evening’s other group game means that Estonia have only a mathematical chance of qualifying. “Now it’s over for this qualification,” said Estonia coach Magnus Pehrsson. “Even if we felt we followed our game plan, when you are ambitious like I am and the team is, it’s always a bad feeling when you lose.”
Published in The Express Tribune, October 11th, 2015.
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