european qualiying

Del Bosque hands praise to Negredo and Casillas

October 15, 2009

Spain coach Vicente del Bosque singled out striker Alvaro Negredo and goalkeeper Iker Casillas for special praise after the European champions downed Bosnia-Herzegovina 5-2 to complete a perfect qualifying record for next year's World Cup.

Both players were major influences on the game in Zenica, with Negredo scoring two goals and setting up another two on what was his first start for Spain following his debut at the weekend, while at the other end of the pitch captain Casillas was in brilliant form.

The Real Madrid custodian, making his 99th international appearance, made two fine saves early on when the game was still goalless and then kept Bosnia-Herzegovina at bay with a number of crucial stops after the Iberian side had taken a 2-0 lead through goals from Gerard Pique and David Silva.

Casillas was finally beaten in stoppage time at the end of the match when Bosnia-Herzegovina pulled two goals back through Edin Dzeko and Zvjezdan Misimovic, but Spain were 5-0 up at the time and assured of making it 10 wins out of 10 in qualifying.

"The whole team was magnificent, but Casillas was superb once again. I also want to highlight the contribution of Negredo, because it was his first game as a starter and as well as the two goals he gave the passes for two others. He has integrated perfectly into the team,'' said Del Bosque.

Spain's victory not only saw them achieve the extremely rare feat of finishing a World Cup qualifying campaign with a 100% record, but making it even more impressive was the fact key players such as David Villa, Xavi, Fernando Torres, Carles Puyol and Cesc Fabregas were not even involved.

Few teams will relish facing the Spanish in the World Cup finals, but Del Bosque is reluctant to view his side as favourites to win the competition.

"I'm optimistic but also cautious,'' he said. "I don't want to break the euphoria amongst the fans, but more than favourites I prefer to say that Spain are contenders with high hopes.

"We have good players, a good team, but there are some very strong rivals. Our aim is to fight for the World Cup, but we know that it is very difficult.''

Del Bosque also paid tribute to Bosnia-Herzegovina, who despite being on the wrong end of the one-sided scorline gave Spain plenty of problems throughout the match and should probably have taken the lead after creating three good openings in the first 10 minutes.

The defeat was not a costly one for Bosnia-Herzegovina though as they had guaranteed themselves the runners-up position in Group Five and a place in the play-offs prior to the match, and Del Bosque believes Miroslav Blazevic's men have every chance of joining his side in South Africa.

"They fully deserved to finish second. They have everything in place to qualify for the World Cup, with a team of good individuals and fans who make it very difficult for opponents to win on their ground,'' the Spain coach added.