Even if it does not exactly look like swashbuckling Brazil from 1970, Spain is right where everyone expected, safe and sound and qualified once again for the World Cup.
Spain is now positioned to become the first nation to defend its World Cup title in more than 50 years. No team has done so since Brazil, winners in 1958 and 1962.
No one ever doubted Spain’s ability to qualify for World Cup 2014. This is, after all, not just the reigning global winner but also the two-time defending European champion. But the mounting question for Vicente del Bosque’s embarrassingly talented bunch was whether it would merely qualify, or would it finally seize a little more offensive high ground and book a place with a bit more steam, an additional helping of hungry flourish?
Would they announce their presence with a quiet knock on the door and a, “Pardon, but we are here?” Or would they kick the door in and scream, “We are back … and what are you going to do about it?”
We’ll call it “mission somewhat accomplished” as La Roja rode out a comfortable 2-0 win over Georgia at home Tuesday, establishing their official place for next summer. Spain thusly closed out another unblemished World Cup qualifying campaign; the Spaniards are unbeaten in 53 consecutive qualifiers going back 20 years.
The world champions had needed just a point in the match at Albacete to book their latest spot in the tournament. Spain has not missed a World Cup since Germany 1974.
Still, the Spaniards’ current qualification campaign had been efficient and businesslike, although wholly underwhelming. The team had just 12 goals in seven previous matches, enough to keep ahead of the (now complaining) French, but not exactly what we might expect from a team that includes Xavi, Andres Iniesta, Cesc Fabregas, Pedro Rodriguez and Alvaro Negredo, just to name a few of the Spanish luminaries.
Holland and Germany have been far more evocative and bullying, driving their qualifying goal-scoring totals into the 30s ahead of Tuesday’s matches.
Negredo, the newly arrived Manchester City man, scored just before the half hour Tuesday. Chelsea’s Juan Mata doubled the lead just after the hour mark.
The updated (as of 4:55 p.m. ET) list of World Cup qualifiers, now up to 17, looks like this:
- Bosnia and Herzegovina
- Costa Rica
- South Korea
- United States