Spain have become favourites to top their group after a 1-0 win over Macedonia saw them move to points ahead of Slovakia in the second spot.
The former world champions were overwhelming favourites to win their group, but they suffered from a hangover after the World Cup 2014 to lose ground in the early parts of the qualification campaign. Slovakia claimed full advantage by opening a substantial advantage, which has since been reduced to a two-point deficit following impressive form from Spain. The Spaniards needed to defeat Slovakia in order to overtake them and they exactly achieved it with a 2-0 victory a few days ago.
This has been followed up by a narrow win against Macedonia. Spain were definitely not at their fluent best and their performance was later criticised by manager Vicente del Bosque. He claimed that it was only by chance that Spain managed to defeat their less illustrious opponents. The game was expected to be a walk in the park for a team containing the likes of Andres Iniesta, Diego Costa, and Cesc Fabregas. After all, Macedonia lie at the bottom of the group after having conceded 16 goals in just 8 games. Only a Pachovski own goal saw Spain grab three points from this encounter.
“We beat [Macedonia] by chance and got the basics wrong. We didn’t play well. It’s hard to explain [why we played how we did], but we showed plenty of willingness in the first half and not so much in the second.We scored our goal by chance. Once we scored, we stopped playing. We played slowly, without any substance. We played a little bit but didn’t succeed in grasping the three basic concepts of football; defending, creating chances and finishing them off,” said the former Real Madrid boss, who has come under pressure to drop Costa.