Spain: Casillas; Sergio Ramos, Puyol (Juanito
46'), Pablo, Del Horno; Xavi, Albelda; Joaquín, De la Peña
(Raúl 46'), Reyes (Antonio López 62'); Fernando Torres. 4-2-3-1.
Serbia: Jevric; Koroman (Basta 77'), Gavrancic, Vidic, Krstajic, Dragutinovic; Stankovic, Duljaj, Djordjevic; Kezman (Jestrovic 80'), Milosevic (Ilic 65'). 5-3-2.
Spain took another step towards qualifying for next year's World Cup when they held on to draw 0-0 against their main group rivals Serbia Montenegro. Starting the day two points behind the East Europeans, Luis Aragonés's side couldn't afford to lose in a hostile Maracaná stadium in Belgrade. The manager decided to give Sergio Ramos his first international start on his 19th birthday, and left Raúl on the bench even though the team captain had theoretically been declared fit. Casillas passed a late fitness test on an injured ankle to take over the captain's armband, and Reyes replaced Luque on the left of the attack.
Both sides were wary of each other at the beginning, and there was very little action until the twentieth minute when Albelda blocked a shot from Osasuna striker Milosevic. Joaquín tested Jevric for the first time on the half hour mark though, and the keeper did well to hold on to Del Horno's header from the resulting corner. By now the game was opening up, and Krstajic headed a dangerous free kick over the bar. And shortly before half time Djordjevic almost put his side in front with a volley on the turn which whistled over the top.
Aragonés's plans were altered when Puyol limped off at the break, and although the manager replaced De la Peña with Raúl, he had to use another of his substitutions to bring on Juanito. The first chance of the second half fell to Joaquín who shot wide, but a few minutes later the hosts should have gone ahead when Milosevic put Kezman away only for the Chelsea striker to fire his shot against the post, Casillas thankfully gathering up the rebound. Juanito could have given Spain the lead five minutes later though when he somehow turned the ball over the bar from a couple of yards out after Raúl headed on a corner.
By now both managers appeared to be happy with a draw and made defensive changes, Atlético's Antonio López coming on for his first cap in place of Reyes and ex Celta midfielder Ilic replacing Milosevic. Fernando Torres had had a quiet night up to then, but he almost won it for his side when he shot over the bar after a good run by Raúl. But there was a last minute scare for the visitors when Serbia won a free kick on the edge of the area in injury time, Djodjevic's free kick thankfully clearing the bar without troubling Casillas. In the end though Spain had got the point they wanted, and at the half way stage of the competition they are well in line for a place in Germany next summer.