Cazorla, Alcacer seal Spain’s place at Euros
Defending champions Spain secured their place in next year’s European Championships in France with a 4-0 win over minnows Luxembourg thanks to doubles from Santi Cazorla and Paco Alcacer on Friday.
However Spain’s joy was overshadowed by injuries suffered by David Silva and Alvaro Morata, while Gerard Pique was once again jeered by the home support.
Victory took Vicente del Bosque’s men five points clear of third-placed Ukraine, who Spain travel to face in their final qualifier in Kiev on Monday.
“We have had difficult moments, but fortunately we reacted well as a team. Generally we have defended pretty well and I think today we also created a lot of chances and should have scored some more,” said Del Bosque.
“We’ve managed to qualify at last. We knew we couldn’t be complacent, we played very well and managed to get the win,” Cazorla told Television Espanola.
“The coach showed his faith in me and it went well with the two goals.”
Due to an injury to Sergio Ramos, the hosts started without a Real Madrid player in the line-up for the first time ever in a European qualifier.
However, it was the treatment once again dished out to Pique for mocking Madrid during Barcelona’s treble-winning celebrations last season that caused controversy.
Pique’s teammates and Del Bosque appeared dismayed that their calls for the centre-back to be supported had fallen on deaf ears for the second consecutive home fixture.
“The truth is it is uncomfortable,” added Cazorla.
“You don’t notice it so much on the pitch because you are concentrated on the game, but Gerard has a strong character and we hope it doesn’t happen again.”
There was further worry for Del Bosque when Silva was forced off with a right ankle sprain after just 10 minutes that could also prove bad news for Premier League leaders Manchester City.
Spain’s movement in the final third was much better than in previous qualifiers and twice they passed up huge chances to go in front as Jordi Alba blazed over from point-blank range before Cazorla smashed a shot against the crossbar.
A more serious looking injury interrupted Spain’s flow once more when Morata had to be stretchered off after being accidentally stood on by a Luxembourg defender.
Spanish media reported the Juventus striker was taken to hospital for further tests on what is feared could be a broken fibula.
Alcacer replaced the former Real Madrid man and built on his impressive record at international level despite a poor start to the season with Valencia.
Cazorla opened the scoring five minutes before half-time as he swept home the rebound after Jonathan Joubert had made a smart save from Pedro Rodriguez.
Alcacer brought a hitherto dull second period to life when he slotted home a neat through ball from Cesc Fabregas on his 99th international appearance 23 minutes from time.
The Chelsea midfielder teed up Alcacer once more minutes later, but this time he skewed horribly wide with the goal at his mercy.
Nolito made his competitive international debut for the final 15 minutes as he replaced Pedro and immediately made an impact for the third goal.
The Celta Vigo forward’s pass freed Alba inside the area and his cut-back was tapped into an empty net by Alcacer for his sixth international goal in nine appearances.
And Cazorla rounded off the scoring with the best goal of the night when he thundered in a shot from the edge of the box to seal Spain’s ticket to France in style.