Share this story

NOT DONE: Spain in fine form but Lopetegui still wants more


Spain enjoyed a dominant international break and got closer to sealing their spot in the 2018 World Cup.

The Roja opened the break with a 3-0 thumping of Group G rivals Italy at Santiago Bernabeu, then followed that with an 8-0 demolition of minnows Liechtenstein at Rheinpark Stadion.

They lead the group by three points, and have only conceded thrice while scoring 32 goals in eight qualifying fixtures.

But manager Lopetegui warns his side not to get complacent, since “getting close to the World Cup” is not same as making it to Russia next year.

“Being close is not worth anything,” said the 51-year-old.

Spain are still three points away from getting a ticket in next year’s finals, but their last two matches in the qualifiers are against Albania and Israel, sides they easily defeated earlier in the competition.

“In October we have to make two big matches,” added Lopetegui. “In every game you draw conclusions or interesting information.


Spain deserve great credit for how their team play allowed them to dominate Italy, a good team, and destroy Liechtenstein, the group cellar dwellers.

But both boss Lopetegui and goalkeeper David De Gea agree that many of their chances started with midfielder Isco finding ways to break down their opponents defenses.

Against the Italians, Isco broke the deadlock with a 13th minute effort from close range, then doubled the lead with another strike in the 40th minute. In the match against Liechtenstein, he scored the team’s third goal. All in all, Isco has four goals and one assist in six appearances in these qualifiers.

“There was much more to his game than [his scoring,” said Lopetegui of his in-form chance creator.

“He defended well and worked hard without the ball. His character and mentality were spot on. He wanted to be the main man, when the going got tough.”

De Gea said he has “known Isco for ages so it’s no surprise for me what he’s doing”.

“I have seen him doing incredible things for so long now so people shouldn’t be surprised either,” said the Manchester United keeper.

“He’s been performing at a high level and doing incredible things on the pitch for a while. He’s at a top level and that’s great for the team. We hope he keeps improving.

“Bearing in mind his personality, he’ll become one of the greatest.”