Euro 2016

Qualifying group C

Slovakia 2 - Spain 1

Slovakia: Kozácik; Pekarík, Skrtel, Durica, Hubocan; Pecovsky, Gyömber, Kucka (Kiss 82’); Mak (Stoch 61’), Hamsík, Weiss (Duris 53’). 4-3-3.
Spain: Casillas; Juanfran (Cazorla 80‘), Raúl Albiol (Pedro 57’), Piqué, Jordi Alba; Koke, Busquets; David Silva (Paco Alcácer 70’), Fábregas, Iniesta; Diego Costa. 4-2-3-1.

1-0. 17. Kucko. Picked up short free kick and bent shot through wall past Casillas
1-1. 82. Alcácer. Collected Jordi Alba cross and steered shot wide of Kozacik.
2-1. 87. Stoch. Got free of marker to head ball down past Casillas from Duris cross.

A surprise defeat for Spain in their second group game, Del Bosque’s side losing 2-1 to Slovakia in Zilinika. There were no major changes in the coach’s line-up, which was still based largely on his World Cup squad, Casillas keeping his place in goal and Diego Costa leading the attack. In the opening minutes Casillas was called upon to make a good save from Mak, and Diego Costa headed a cross from Chelsea team-mate Fàbregas just wide of the mark. However the East Europeans took the lead with just over a quarter of an hour gone following a short Weiss free kick, Kucka’s shot bending past a strangely out of position Casillas and in to the centre of the net.

Local keeper Kozacik made a string of saves after that, especially from Iniesta, Costa and Busquets shortly before the break, and Fàbregas and Costa soon after the restart. But gradually Spain ran out of ideas despite the overwhelming possession, and Del Bosque went for broke, bringing on Pedro, Alcácer and finally Cazorla for Albiol, Silva and Juanfran.

That finally seemed to have paid off when Alcácer beat the offside trap to pick up Jordi Alba’s cross and fire home the equalizer, but with the visitors throwing everything forward, Stoch restored the lead for Slovakia on a rare counter-attack, heading a long Duris cross down past Casillas.

Results elsewhere meant that Spain still stay second in their group, and with two to qualify and a third to go into a play-off this was still not a disaster. However it was a serious wake-up call, and the coach may have to make some more radical changes if he is to restore “La Roja” to it’s rightful place in World football.