World Cup 2006

Group stage

Saudi Arabia 0 - Spain 1

Saudi Arabia: Zaid; Dokhi, Tukar, Al Montashari, Al Khathran; Noor, Kariri, Aziz (Al Temyat 13'), Sulimani (Massad 81'); Al Harthi, Al Jabar (Al Hawsawi 68'). 4-4-2.
Spain: Cañizares; Michel Salgado, Juanito, Marchena, Antonio López; Cesc (Xavi 66'), Albelda, Iniesta; Joaquín, Raúl (David Villa 46'), Reyes (Fernando Torres 70'). 4-3-3.

0-1. 35. Juanito. Got ahead of marker to head Reyes free kick past Zaid.

Spain ended the group stage with three wins out of three, although their 1-0 victory over Saudi Arabia was not as big as they had hoped. With top spot virtually assured, Luis Aragonés rested all of his first choice players, giving a first World Cup appearance to Salgado, Juanito, Marchena, Antonio López, Iniesta and Reyes, and probably a last one for veteran keeper Cañizares. But a great performance by Saudi keeper Zaid Mabrouk meant that "la selección" had to make do with a narrow victory.

The new boys were anxious to show their coach that they merited a place in the side, and Zaid was soon in action to tip over a shot from Joaquín and then save from Reyes. Albelda also put the keeper to the test with a powerful shot after Iniesta and Cesc combined to set him up, and Joaquín was thwarted again after a good run. It appeared to be a matter of time though, and Juanito finally did what his forwards couldn't when he ran in to head a Reyes free kick in to the back of the net.

Zaid was called upon to keep out Cesc, Reyes and Antonio López either side of half time, and it looked as if Spain were in for another big score. But their opponents fought back, Suliman bringing a good save out of Cañizares on the Saudi captain's one hundredth appearance, and Al Harthi firing over the top of the bar after Noor had laid the ball on a plate.

Aragonés had brought on Villa at the break, and he introduced Xavi and then Fernando Torres to try and liven things up. But even they were unable to make much headway, and although Joaquín almost turned Iniesta's shot past Zaid, Saudi Arabia came close to saving a point when Al Temyat shot just wide of the far post near the end.

Not the best performance in the end, but Spain did finish with the best record of the World Cup in the group stages, and their star players were able to get some rest, ably covered by one the strongest squads in the competition. Their "reward" though is a last 16 tie with former world champions France, and if they get through that then they will probably meet four time winners Brazil. As the song goes, nobody said it was easy, but nobody said it would be this hard! If they make it to Berlin on 9th July they will have earned it!