Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Spain Pained by the Race to Brazil; Football Correspondent

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Spain Pained by the Race to Brazil; Football Correspondent

Article excerpt

Byline: Tom Collomosse

AS ENGLAND supporters fret about the team's chances of qualifying for the World Cup, it might comfort them to know that the current holders are in a similar position.

One of the most accomplished sides on the planet, Spain won each of their last three major tournaments at senior level but their job is not done yet.

Yes, Vicente del Bosque's men will be overwhelming favourites in the home fixtures against Belarus tonight and Georgia next Tuesday, from which they need four points to be certain of qualification.

Yet even the best sides can suffer jitters at such a vital stage of the campaign.

If Del Bosque is worried, he can console himself that, clearly, his bosses are not. The Spanish federation have already offered their highly successful coach a two-year contract extension which, if accepted, would give him the chance to defend the European Championship title in 2016.

"We have two finals remaining," said the Spain boss. "Regarding my future, we will see. What is at stake now are the six points available from these games.

"Football is treacherous and we must be prepared. I am not prepared to talk about the draw for the tournament, because it would sound arrogant. The time to answer those questions would be after the final game."

Of the European nations still aspiring to qualify for Brazil next summer, only Holland and Italy can relax. With the task already complete, those two teams can use their final two fixtures to begin preparations for the World Cup; their rivals can enjoy no such luxury.

Germany, Belgium and Switzerland have put together strong campaigns, however, and will qualify tonight if results work in their favour. Belgium, likely to be one of the dark horses next summer, need only a draw in Croatia to secure their place, while Switzerland and Germany must beat Albania and Ireland respectively to join them.

After reaching the semi-finals of the last two World Cups, the Germans will be among the favourites in Brazil and coach Joachim Low is keen to start making plans as quickly as possible.

"We're greedy," said Low. …

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