Spain joined a select group of teams to record a perfect World Cup qualifying
record tonight, making it 10 wins out of 10 in Group Five with a crushing
victory over Bosnia-Herzegovina in Zenica.
Spain followed in the footsteps of countries such as West Germany in 1982 and
Holland this year by winning all their qualifying matches, sweeping aside the
second-best team in their pool thanks to early goals from Gerard Pique and David
Silva and two in the second half from Alvaro Negredo on his first start for his
Juan Manuel Mata then added a late fifth with his third goal in successive
internationals before Bosnia-Herzegovina, who were already assured of a spot in
the play-offs before this match, pulled two goals back in injury time from Edin
Dzeko and Zvjezdan Misimovic to add a touch of respectability to the scoreline.
The victory will further establish Spain's credentials as one of the main
favourites to win next year's World Cup - especially because they were missing
the likes of Xavi, Fernando Torres, David Villa, Carles Puyol and Cesc Fabregas.
But Vicente del Bosque's side will know it could have been a completely
different story if Bosnia-Herzegovina had made the most of their early chances.
Spain goalkeeper Iker Casillas, playing his 99th match for his country, was in
inspired form to keep the home side at bay.
The Real Madrid custodian was first called into action in the seventh minute to
parry Dzeko's effort - and moments later he did even better to push away Sejad
Salihovic's shot as it arrowed towards the top corner.
The Spain goal should have been breached in the 10th minute, though, when Vedad
Ibisevic latched on to a clever through-ball and rounded Casillas. But with an
open net to aim for, the Hoffenheim striker sliced his shot wide of the near
That miss took on extra significance within three minutes, Spain netting twice
in that time through Pique and Silva.
Pique broke the deadlock in the 12th minute when he beat Bosnia-Herzegovina
goalkeeper Nemanja Supic to Xabi Alonso's curling free-kick to glance home a
header, and then seconds later Silva coolly slotted home from the edge of the
box after Negredo's pin-point through-ball had bisected the home centre-backs.
From being under heavy pressure, Spain were suddenly in total control of the
match - and they had a great chance to make it 3-0 in the 21st minute when
Iniesta found Albert Riera in front of goal. But the Liverpool winger opted to
control the ball instead of shooting first time, and that allowed the
Bosnia-Herzegovina defence to get back and deflect his eventual effort behind
for a corner.
Spain were threatening to make it embarrassing for their hosts. But Miroslav
Blazevic's men were determined to give as good as they were getting, and
Ibisevic almost pulled a goal back in the 23rd minute when he was denied by a
brilliant one-handed block by Casillas at his near post.
Ten minutes later, Casillas produced another remarkable save to deflect
Salihovic's shot behind following a good move. From the resulting corner, the
unmarked Misimovic screwed his shot wide.
Even though they did not manage to score, Bosnia-Herzegovina would have gone
into half-time buoyed by their first-half performance and optimistic they could
still get something out of the game.
However, any chance of that happening lasted just nine minutes of the second
half as Spain doubled their lead to 4-0 thanks to Negredo - who started
tonight's match, having made his debut during Saturday's 2-1 win over Armenia as
a second-half replacement for Torres.
The Sevilla forward's first goal for his country came in the 49th minute when
he spun on the spot to fire home from 10 yards out following good work by
Iniesta and Silva, and five minutes later he was celebrating his second.
Riera sent in a low cross from the left that neither Supic nor home captain
Emir Spahic could successfully cut out, and Negredo took advantage to divert the
ball into the roof of the net at the far post with his knee.
Riera had a couple of chances to increase Spain's lead in the closing stages,
but it was substitute Mata who did add the fifth when he raced on to Negredo's
brilliant pass to fire home from inside the area.
That was not the end of the scoring, though - because Bosnia-Herzegovina
finally got the goals their play deserved when Dzeko and Misimovic netted, both
goals coming via deflections off of Andoni Iraola before beating Casillas.
Spain striker Alvaro Negredo hopes his performance in tonight's impressive 5-2
defeat of Bosnia-Herzegovina will help further his claims for a place in Vicente
del Bosque's final squad for next summer's World Cup finals.
"It was an important game for me. I was given the opportunity, I had to take
advantage of it and I've done that. I've linked up well with my team-mates and
I'm happy,'' said Negredo, who was pleased with how things went tonight compared
to on his debut.
"It was all very rushed (against Armenia) and things didn't go for me, but today I've had the fortune to score two goals and I'm very happy for this day. Del Bosque has congratulated me and told me that I did a good job. Now I have to work very hard to be able to go to the World Cup. With hard work and humility I want to achieve it all,'' he added in AS.