LOGRONO, Spain (Reuters) – Spain coach Vicente del Bosque breathed a sigh of relief on Friday after what he called the “suffering” of qualifying for Euro 2016 and said the holders were close to where he wanted them to be.
Spain’s 4-0 success at home to Group C minnows Luxembourg secured top spot with a game to spare and Del Bosque’s side will be chasing an unprecedented third straight continental crown at the tournament in France next year.
Spain slipped to second behind Slovakia after losing 2-1 in Zilina in October 2014 but a 2-0 win in the reverse fixture in Oviedo last month put them back on track and victories in Macedonia and at home to Luxembourg have sent them through.
“We put together a very good qualifying campaign but with a certain degree of suffering,” Del Bosque told a news conference after Friday’s game in Logrono.
“We have to congratulate ourselves because the defeat to Slovakia was burdensome,” he added.
Spain’s latest win was soured by injuries to forward Alvaro Morata and midfielder David Silva who came off in the first half to be replaced by Juan Mata and Paco Alcacer respectively.
Alcacer took his chance to impress with a double and Santi Cazorla also struck twice in a dominant win for La Roja.
Valencia forward Alcacer, 22, is one of the relative youngsters Del Bosque is hoping will help underpin Spain’s campaign in France.
Juventus striker Morata, also 22, is another fine prospect, along with the likes of midfielders Thiago Alcantara of Bayern Munich and Real Madrid’s Isco.
Del Bosque will need to find the right balance between the players coming through and an experienced group including Silva, Cazorla, Andres Iniesta, who is out injured, Sergio Busquets and Cesc Fabregas.
“As far as the way we play and renewing the team we have made progress,” Del Bosque said. “We have a team that is practically the finished article and an idea of how we want to play.”
Spain will contest a 12th straight international tournament in France and will look to bounce back after slumping out of last year’s World Cup in Brazil at the group stage, when they were defending the title they won for the first time in 2010.
(Writing by Iain Rogers, editing by Ken Ferris)