Qualifying tougher than Spain boss expected

Paco Alcacer (far left) and Santi Cazorla each netted twice during Spain's 4-0 thrashing of Luxembourg in Logrono for the defending champions to qualify for Euro 2016.
Paco Alcacer (left) and Santi Cazorla each netted twice during Spain's 4-0 thrashing of Luxembourg in Logrono for the defending champions to qualify for Euro 2016.PHOTO: REUTERS

LOGRONO (Spain) • Spain manager Vicente del Bosque admitted his side had struggled more than he would have liked in sealing their place in next year's European Championship.

Santi Cazorla and Paco Alcacer each scored twice in a 4-0 win over Luxembourg on Friday, to give the two-time defending champions an unassailable five-point lead over Slovakia and Ukraine with just one game to play in Group C.

Spain have won eight of their nine qualifiers and have not conceded a goal in the seven games since they were beaten 2-1 away in Slovakia exactly a year ago.

"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 del Bosque.

However, victory and qualification were overshadowed by injuries to David Silva and Alvaro Morata and the repeated jeers towards Gerard Pique by the home fans.

Initial reports in the Spanish media suggested Manchester City's Silva has suffered a right ankle sprain, whilst Juventus' Morata has been taken to hospital for tests on what is feared could be a broken fibula.

Pique was once again whistled despite the requests of del Bosque and his team-mates to support the Barcelona centre-back.

The defender has been targeted since mocking Real Madrid during Barcelona's Treble-winning celebrations at the end of last season.

Slovakia should still join Spain in qualifying automatically, despite losing 1-0 at home to Belarus.

Away to Luxembourg tomorrow, they must match Ukraine's result at home to Spain to advance. Ukraine won 2-0 away to Macedonia on Friday.

Switzerland joined England in reaching Euro 2016 from Group E, after a 7-0 home rout of San Marino.

Russia won 2-1 away to Moldova and now need only a point at home to Montenegro tomorrow to qualify behind Austria from Group G.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, THE TIMES, LONDON

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on October 11, 2015, with the headline 'Qualifying tougher than Spain boss expected'. Print Edition | Subscribe