KIEV (Reuters) – Spain return to the scene of their Euro 2012 triumph to play Ukraine in a qualifier on Monday with their place at next year’s finals secure and coach Vicente del Bosque said he would field an experimental team in Kiev.
Friday’s 4-0 Group C win over Luxembourg in Logrono assured Spain of top spot in the section with a game to spare on 24 points and they will bid for an unprecedented third straight continental triumph in France next year.
Slovakia, who play in Luxembourg on Monday, and Ukraine are level on 19 points in second and third respectively and guaranteed at least a playoff spot. The top two teams progress automatically and the third-placed side contest a playoff.
Del Bosque told a news conference previewing the game at Kiev’s Olympic Stadium that La Roja’s 4-0 demolition of Italy in the Euro 2012 final there was their best performance of his seven-year reign as coach.
It was Spain’s first competitive win over 90 minutes against the Italians in 92 years and sealed an historic treble of major tournament wins following their maiden World Cup in South Africa in 2010 and Euro 2008 success in Austria and Switzerland.
Del Bosque told reporters there would be changes on Monday from the team he fielded in Logrono and Valencia forward Paco Alcacer, who scored twice against Luxembourg after replacing the injured Alvaro Morata, would start.
Others who are likely to get a chance to impress the manager are Celta Vigo winger Nolito, Chelsea forward Pedro and midfielders Thiago Alcantara of Bayern Munich and Real Madrid’s Isco respectively.
“We are in an ideal situation,” Del Bosque said. “We wanted to come here safe in the knowledge we had qualified but this does not mean we won’t be putting our all into the game.
“Ukraine has all the motivation in the world to qualify. They have an important goal but as sportsmen we will try to play the best match possible.”
Spain’s Manchester United midfielder Juan Mata scored the fourth goal in the 2012 final against Italy as a substitute and said he was enjoying his return to the Ukrainian capital.
“Kiev brings back fantastic memories,” Mata said. “It was a great day in the history of our nation. The hotel is the same as we had at Euro 2012 and I think the only thing that has changed is we have a different dressing room at the stadium.”
(Writing by Iain Rogers, editing by Ken Ferris)