No surprises in Group 5 as Spain qualify comfortably

With a squad consisting predominantly of Champions League regulars, and their newly acclaimed title of European Champions still echoing throughout the footballing world, most people asssumed the Spanish team would be on the plane to South Africa in 2010 even before the first ball of the qualifying campaign had been kicked; particularly in comparison to the rest of their group. The general consensus was that, although the likes of Turkey and Belgium have more than held their own in the past, they would be no match for the supreme quality and Spanish flair which would surely continue on from the European Championships on into the World Cup qualification stages.

And, ’most people’ were correct. Following their 3-0 win over Estonia on September 9th, Spain have earned themselves a place in next year’s tournament, and in spectacular fashion too. They have so far won every game played, conceding only twice, and keeping six clean sheets - an extremely impressive record indeed.

Coach Vicente del Bosque was given a tough act to follow after the success of his predecessor Luis Aragones, but thus far has managed to deal with the country’s high expectations and delivered accordingly. Under his management, Spain have only suffered one defeat, surprisingly knocked out by the USA in the semi final of the Confederations Cup. Del Bosque has now been suitably rewarded, the Spanish Football Federation offering him a contract extension which will see him continue as coach until 2012.

The journey began for Spain with a 1-0 win over Bosnia-Herzegovina on September 6th 2008. A well-organised Bosnia side, although very much the underdogs, nevertheless gave Spain a run for their money. But overall, it was a comfortable victory for Spain, who did not look troubled by any stretch of the imagination and could have won by a larger defecit had David Villa scored from a 36th minute penalty, although he later made up for his miss by securing the winner after 58 minutes from a tight angle.

Spain’s next two matches consisted of nine goals for and one against, with 4-0, 3-0 and 2-1 victories over Armenia, Estonia and Belgium respectively. Armenia’s hopes of an upset were extinguished after only 17 minutes, after goals from Joan Capdevila and Villa put them 2-0 up; Villa and Marcos Senna adding two more later on. Villa was again on the scoresheet against Estonia, this time with a successful spot kick adding to strikes from Juanito and Carles Puyol. And the Valencia striker, much sought after during the 2009 January transfer window, came to the rescue after his 88th minute header secured the 3 points against Belgium.

Spring 2009 saw two well earned victories against Turkey for Spain, beating them 1-0 and 2-1 in the space of five days. A slow start to the first fixure saw the first and only goal scored in the 60th minute by Gerard Pique, after a wait of 42 minutes for their first noteworthy effort. The 2-1 victory was even more closely contested, and required a stoppage time winner from Alberto Riera after Xabi Alonso’s penalty cancelled out Semih Senturk’s 26th minute effort.

A 5-0 drubbing of Belgium followed on 5th September, with Spain’s place in the tournament almost ensured, but not quite. A brace each for David Villa and David Silva, in addition to a Gerard Piquet strike, showed that Spain meant business, and would not lift their foot off the gas until they had qualified.

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After a confident 3-0 victory against Estonia, with Cesc Fabregas, Santi Cazorla and Juan Manuel Garcia Mata getting themselves on the scoresheet, Spain finally achieved it, and deservedly so; the youthful and exciting Spanish side are widely tipped to go all the way in South Africa.

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