ESPN FC: Europe's elite
Spain coach Vicente del Bosque has expressed concern at the lack of ambition shown by his side after the 2-1 World Cup qualification win over Belarus.
Spain are in a commanding position in Group I, with a three-point lead over France ahead of the final games on Tuesday, when La Furia Roja host Georgia and Les Bleus take on Finland at the Stade de France.
However, the world and European champions have struggled to produce their best form on a regular basis, and Del Bosque said Friday’s home victory had been “kind of a copy” of games against Finland and Georgia in the campaign.
“It is true that the match seemed a repeat of recent others we have had,” Del Bosque said.
The Belarus match saw Xavi Hernandez finally make the breakthrough for Spain with an hour gone before Alvaro Negredo doubled their lead. The visitors’ Sergei Kornilenko reduced the arrears in the dying moments.
“The game had the script we expected -- all our opponents play the same way,” Del Bosque told Telecinco. “We weren't able to break them down but the important thing is that we won and we are closer to our objective.
“We wanted to play deeper down the wings, but when we scored we adopted a conservative spirit and it was to our detriment. I think that we should have tried to be more ambitious.”
Swansea forward Michu endured a disappointing international debut and was replaced by Negredo just before the opening goal.
“Watching Michu train encouraged me to pick him,” Del Bosque explained. “He has great spirit and gets in good places to shoot. It was difficult for him but we have a lot of faith in him.
“Then Negredo came on and scored, which is what we'd hoped for. We pick the team without worrying about players' egos and it was a good day for Michu to play, that's all.”
Barcelona star Xavi, meanwhile, said he was relieved to win but also had concerns over the performance.
“We had to make a real effort,” the 33-year-old told Telecinco. “We were sloppy in the final pass and we needed to be more precise, but we've taken a huge step towards qualifying for the World Cup.”
He added: “It's tough when they close up shop. They allow you to enter their half and put ten men behind the ball. We tried to move the ball around quickly and be fluid, but sometimes we had trouble doing that.
“We had chances but the goal just wouldn't arrive. My goal and then Alvaro's helped relax us, but Belarus' goal at the end gave us a little scare.”
Information from the Press Association was used in this report.