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Although Spain's 4-0 victory against Liechtenstein was as comprehensive as expected and could have been still more emphatic, Vicente del Bosque's players were clear that they treated their task in Vaduz as seriously as lifting the FIFA World Cup in the summer.
Three years ago it took two David Villa goals for the eventual UEFA EURO 2008 winners to win 2-0 in Liechtenstein and as Spain launched their bid to retain the title, the forward added one more valuable strike. It came between a pair from Fernando Torres and a fourth from David Silva who had barely entered the Group I opener as a second-half substitute.
Cesc Fàbregas and Xabi Alonso, paired in midfield for the second half, pointed out that while there was a gulf in class and technique between the two sides the visitors were determined not to allow Bidu Zaugg's players to show more hunger than them. "I think that was the most important thing to demonstrate right from the start," Fàbregas told UEFA.com.
"Sometimes when you have all the possession and you create chance after chance then it is possible that you take too long to adapt to what is going on and then you fail to be incisive enough," he added. "
Tonight against Liechtenstein I think we did quite well because we were sharp and we constantly switched our passing moves from one side of the pitch to another in search of openings. Liechtenstein defended constantly and just kicked the ball away when they could so the intensity of our focus and desire to win were vital."
There was a world of difference between the hothouse atmosphere of Spain's nerve-wracking victory against the Netherlands in July in Soweto and the small, friendly, picturesque Rheinpark Stadium where an all-female saxophone quartet, dressed in shimmering outfits, played the teams' national anthems. But Alonso points out that the visitors brought the same determined attitude which has made them European and World champions to Vaduz.
"There was no question that this was the approach we required," said the Real Madrid CF midfielder. "We tried to apply the same style and the same intensity as during the World Cup. We know that we had to go out totally focussed and not overconfident because any game can get complicated if you don't show the right attitude. That was fundamental tonight. "
Indeed, they could have won by more had it not been, in part, for a tenacious performance from long-standing Liechtenstein goalkeeper Peter Jehle. "
We tried to be a tough team to beat and we managed that to a degree," the Vaduz FC keeper said. "Spain are not only the best team in the world at the moment they also play the best style of football. So It is difficult to get in the game because they pass so quickly.
"But we attempted to go on pushing until the 90th minute and in the end we are a little bit disappointed about the scoreline. But of course it remains a good night for us because we were hosting the world champions and we will have learned."
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