Spain 5 - Liechtenstein 0
Manuel Pablo, Nadal, Hierro, Romero; Mendieta, Guardiola (Sergio 82'),
Iván Helguera (Baraja 66'), Munitis (Etxeberria 39'); Raúl, Javi
Report by our international correspondents Borja Pantzov and Goran Arsic.
Well here we are on the Mediterranean coast, and what better place to set up base for the games at Alicante and Valencia than Benidorm, especially as there has been a heat wave this week in Spain and temperatures are reaching 30 degrees. Our first impression of the town though is that maybe the space station Mir landed on top of it, but apparently it always looks like this. It's Friday night and we set off looking for fellow Spanish supporters, and soon we hear the strains of '..y viva España', must be them. But rounding the corner we find a coach load of English holidaymakers, and with no Spaniards apparently in the whole town we decide to join them. A large lady from Bradford asks me if I would rattle my 'maracas' close to her, but I'm not sure what she is talking about and politely decline. A few hours later Goran has disappeared and so has the fat lady, and I'm felling quite ill so I make my way back to the hotel.
Saturday morning and Goran comes in at twelve o'clock speaking in a broad Yorkshire accent and singing 'Torremolinos, Torremolinos..'. After a couple of aspirins we hang around in a local bar with our new friends to watch England play Finland (harder opposition than Spain last month) and then it's off to the Hércules stadium in Alicante for the game. Camacho has promised a revolution in the line up, but it appears he means revolving back to the past as Nadal is back after three years out, Munitis is also back in and the only new face is Javi Moreno up front in place of the injured Morientes, who if he had not aggravated an injury in training would be in the line up. There are two new players on the bench, Téllez of Alavés and Segio from Espanyol, but neither starts the match. In any case it's only Liechtenstein against us, and their young keeper Jehle says he will be happy if he lets in less than six.
It takes Spain a bit to get going with nine players in the Liechtenstein defence, but it should only be a matter of time, with Raúl shooting and then heading just wide and Guardiola hitting the post with a free kick. Then Helguera gets the first one, a bit scrappy as he dives too early to meet Mendieta's cross and ends up bundling the ball into the net off his shoulder lying on the ground, but it counts. Mendieta gets a second with his left foot, shooting wide of Jehle and the points are safe at least. Munitis has to go off after getting a knock early on, and the Real Madrid fans look a little worried as Hierro is also limping. Liechtenstein finally get in Spain's half just before the break and force a corner, and the fans applaud as if they had just beaten Brazil in the World Cup final. Either side of half time Raúl goes close again, heading just wide and then seeing Jehle make a spectacular save from another one. But then Guardiola pinpoints a long pass for Javi Moreno, and the keeper trips him up as he is going for goal. The Slovenian referee Darko Ceferin awards a penalty, but has pity on Jehle and only gives him a yellow card. Mendieta should take the penalty, but he leaves it to Hierro, now recovered, who tucks it away to bring him level with Butragueño as Spain's all time top scorer with 26 goals.
Raúl will surely pass them both soon though, and he finally gets the goal he deserves with a delightful flick of the heel, sending Jehle the wrong way as he dives to cover Nadal's shot. Moreno is desperate to get on the score sheet, especially as he missed a penalty on his debut in the last game, but when he does get the ball in the net the referee has already blown his whistle for a foul on a Spanish player. Mendieta hits the bar from a free kick, and a few minutes later he scores his second of the night with a long shot which flies over Lehle's head. Sergio comes on with a few minutes left to make his debut, and the game ends with the Liechtenstein players running (faster than they did during the game) to exchange shirts with the Spanish players. Spain stay top of the group with ten points from four games and must surely be favourites to go through. They now go on to the friendly with France, and with Munitis and Luis Enrique both out, Valencia's under 21 international Vicente could be called up. We go back to Benidorm for a couple of days, with Goran looking a bit wistful, saying that maybe we should have stayed in Barcelona to watch Andorra's 'home match' with Holland. Interesting. More news next week.