World Cup Qualifiers: Spain's future is in Manchester

World Cup Qualifiers: Spain's future is in Manchester

GROUP I

FINLAND 0

SPAIN 2

(Jordi Alba 19, Alvaro Negredo 86)

For all the incessant talk of tiki-taka, Spain flattered to deceive until two men from Manchester intervened.

The world champions' second goal, scored by Alvaro Negredo and set up by Jesus Navas, added a welcome gloss to an otherwise flat performance on Saturday morning.

Until their 86th minute combination calmed nerves and confirmed the three points in Finland, Vicente del Bosque's men were plagued by a perennial problem.

All play and no work makes the Spanish dull boys.

Possession without penetration can get repetitive without a satis­factory climax. At times, a Spanish World Cup qualifier can be like watching The 40-year-Old Virgin.

Of course, such criticism seems disingenuous, perhaps even ungrateful.

The world and European champions reached a higher plane of consistency and quality long ago; achieving a balletic beauty not witnessed since the Samba boys and the Dutch total footballers of the 1970s.

But the Dutch, and particularly the Brazilians, killed teams. The Spanish toy with opponents like a cat pawing at a ball of wool.

They are victims of their own unprecedented success. Welcome mats are seldom laid out in front of penalty boxes when Del Bosque's men come to visit.

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