Sun, Mar 26, 2017 - Page 11 News List

World Cup Qualifiers: Spain coach warns to beware of winner-takes-all distraction

AFP, GIJON, Spain

Spain midfielder Francisco Alarcon, right, vies for the ball with Israel’s Bibras Natkho, left, in their 2018 World Cup qualifying soccer match at Spain’s Estadio El Molinon in Gijon on Friday.

Photo: EPA

Spain coach Julen Lopetegui warned his team not to get distracted by their potentially winner-takes-all World Cup qualifying showdown against Italy after the 2010 champions saw off Israel 4-1 on Friday.

The win kept Spain at the top of Group G with 13 points — the same as Italy — but ahead on goal difference.

Spain and Italy meet on Sept. 2, but Lopetegui’s side must first play Macedonia in June in their next qualifier on the road to the 2018 finals in Russia.

“Our aim is to take three points in every match,” Lopetegui said. “Before we play Italy, we have to face Macedonia and it will be necessary to approach that with the same rigor we showed against Israel.”

Spain and Italy drew their first meeting 1-1 in Turin last year and now lead third-placed Israel by four points in the standings.

Only the group winners are assured a place in the World Cup finals with the runners-up left to take their chances in the playoffs.

Spain were ahead after just 13 minutes when David Silva scored after a fine pass from Jordi Alba.

On the stroke of half-time, Vitolo made it 2-0 with the goal coming crucially just two minutes after a Lior Refaelov header was well saved by David De Gea.

Chelsea’s Diego Costa made it 3-0 after 51 minutes while Silva hit the post six minutes later.

Refaelov cut the deficit before Isco added a fourth for the 2010 champions two minutes from time.

“I am very happy with my goal, but the victory is the most important thing,” Silva said. “We needed to win to stay ahead of the rest. The table looks very positive and we are on the way to accomplishing a great job. Now we have to continue like this.”

Lopetegui said he saw lots of things in the performance on Friday which pleased him.

“We dominated them because the team did the right things, so I was happy with the intensity, the recovery of the ball and the start of the second half was also very good,” he said. “At 3-0 I had the feeling we played a little less collectively but, in general, the team did well.”

“We created lot of chances today. We scored four goals, but could have had more. In general, I am satisfied with the team spirit,” Lopetegui added.

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