International round-up: Spain 'cannot play any better' says Del Bosque
Monday 28 March 2011
Spain play Lithuania tomorrow night with coach Vicente del Bosque announcing that they "cannot play any better". The World and European champions won again on Saturday, beating the Czech Republic 2-1. They are clear at the top of their Euro 2012 qualifying group and will be in an even stronger position should they win in Kaunas.
"We are on a good run of results", said Del Bosque after the victory which extended Spain's lead at the top of Group I to six points, having won all four of their qualifiers so far. "We cannot play any better and we are going to Lithuania to win. If we win, we will have [qualified] very easily." Spain went behind on Saturday when Jaroslav Plasil put the visitors ahead, but a brace from David Villa won them the tie. Villa's goals moved him beyond Raul to become Spain's leading goal-scorer.
One concern for Del Bosque regarding tomorrow's fixture is the state of the pitch. His assistant coach, Paco Jimenez, described the playing surface as "horrible", although Del Bosque refused to blame the hosts for it. "The Lithuanians are not at fault, but that's the situation," he said. "We will travel, speak to the Uefa delegate and do whatever they say."
Andres Iniesta acknowledged that Latvia would be competitive opponents. "It will be a tough game, for sure," said the Barcelona midfielder. "It is a team that pressures a lot, they don't let you breathe, and they close in defence, like a lot of teams."
The Netherlands will also be hoping to maintain an all-winning qualifying record tomorrow night. They are currently six points clear at the top of Group E, and will next play Hungary in Amsterdam. Last Friday they travelled to Budapest and won 4-0, with goals from Rafael van der Vaart, Ibrahim Afellay, Dirk Kuyt and Robin van Persie.
Hungarian coach Sandor Egervari hopes for a different outcome tomorrow and will change his side accordingly. "I'd like to refresh the team for Tuesday's match," he said. "So, beside the forced substitutions, I'm planning changes to the line-up."
Northern Ireland host Slovenia at Windsor Park tomorrow, eager for a win that would move them ahead of the Balkan nation in Group C. Nigel Worthington's team took the lead in their game in Serbia on Friday night and were 25 minutes away from what would have been a crucial victory, but goals from Marko Pantelic and Zoran Tosic won the game which was played behind closed doors in Belgrade.
Worthington is keen that his players are prepared for tomorrow's match. "As long as we get ready to go again on Tuesday against Slovenia we'll be OK," he said. "Four points [from the two matches] would have been good, but three wouldn't be the end of the world."
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