Spain: Cañizares; Michel Salgado, Hierro,
Abelardo, Aranzábal; Etxeberria, Guardiola (Iván Helguera 80'),
Valerón (Engonga 87'), Mendieta; Raúl, Alfonso (Urzaiz 70').
Slovenia: Dabanovic; Milanic (Knavs 68'), Milinovic, Galic, Novak, Karic, Ceh, Pavlin (Acinovic 82'), Rudonja, Zahovic, Udovic (Osterc 46'). 4-5-1.
1-0. 04. Raúl. Snapshot from edge of area after Salgado's shot blocked.
1-1. 59. Zahovic. Half hit shot after cross from left which deceived Cañizares.
2-1. 60. Etxeberria. Strong shot from right after good run by Mendieta.
Hello, Borja Pantzov again, reporting on Spain's next match. Well, Slovenia, personally I don't know how to find it on the map, but I know someone who does, my old friend from Croatia, Goran Arsic' (since he joined us on our World Cup reporting team he has added a ' to his name, just like Baljic' of Real Madrid, his favourite team). Goran explains to me that it was the bit on the left hand side of Yugoslavia that got their independence first, and that I shouldn't worry too much about the fighting between Slovenians and Yugoslavians in the first match, as they didn't like each other much, but had nothing against Spain. If you got into trouble, just sing the words to ''Y viva España'' and everyone would stop fighting and join in (that goes for the English, Germans, Dutch, Belgians and all).
So off we go to the match. Well at least Spain is going to feel at home on the pitch in Amsterdam I thought, as I see they will be playing on sandy ground. Silly me, but it's an easy mistake to make you know, as the Ajax ground in Amsterdam is called the 'Arena' stadium, which in Spanish means 'sand'. Those who were brought up playing football in Spain will know that almost all of the pitches at junior level are dusty ground, and a blade of grass is unknown before you reach at least the second division. But no, the pitch is a lush green, with a sliding roof which makes it look like a greenhouse (they even play with the roof closed when it rains, which is often in Holland).
Anyway, on to the team news. We are surprised to find that Camacho has left out Molina at the last minute, bringing back Cañizares in goal. All week he has been saying to Molina 'don't worry, the goal against Norway wasn't your fault', then ¡boomba, toma ya!, and two hours before the match he is out. Mendieta has won himself a place in the starting line up, although he will play out of position instead of Fran on the left as Etxeberria keeps his place on the right. Abelardo comes in for Paco in defence, as he could come forward and get a goal, and Alfonso comes back up front in place of Urzaiz. Not a bad line up, although for me Valerón could be replaced as well; pity that Julen Guerrero wasn't fit enough to make the squad. Slovenia seem to have a lot of 'itches', like their cousins in Yugoslavia, but Goran explains that the only dangerous one is Zahovic, who scores most of the goals for them from midfield. They are not a pushover however, as their game against Yugoslavia proved.
Everything starts off well for us however, as Raúl adds another notch in his credentials for European player of the year with a first time shot in the fourth minute of the game. We sit back to watch the slaughter, but it doesn't happen, and Slovenia give as much as they get. Then disaster happens, the ball comes over from the left and, amid general confusion, Zahovic mis-hits his shot and the ball bobbles slowly past Cañizares. The critics sharpen their pencils, but before they can write the first word Mendieta gets a grip of the game, ghosts past four players and sets up a killer pass for Etxeberria to drive his shot past Dabanovic. 2-1! After half an hour of holding our breath it is over and we at least have three points on the board, about the best that can be said of the game. Unfortunately Yugoslavia win against Norway which means we must beat them in the last match to be sure of going through to the quarter finals. Otherwise we could draw and go through if Slovenia beat Norway, but that is unlikely. Difficult, and it looks like we have blown it again.