Spain are ready to avenge their demoralising UEFA EURO 2008™ defeats by Sweden and Northern Ireland when they stage the return fixtures this coming week.
Although Spain's record in Group F reads W7, D1, L2, those losses in the autumn of 2006 cast a shadow over their entire qualifying campaign. According to striker David Villa, however, the team have finally lifted the gloom and can seal their qualification for the finals by slaying any remaining Swedish and Northern Irish ghosts.
The Valencia CF forward said: "The reason why the national team was being portrayed as so bad, and why everyone was so pessimistic, was the matches against Sweden and Northern Ireland. Now we have to treat these upcoming games as a kind of revenge and to prove that those defeats were one-offs."
For Villa, the springboard for success for Luis Aragonés's men was the 3-1 win in Denmark last month which finally consolidated their place among the top two in Group F. "The Denmark result was great for us," explained the 25-year-old former Real Zaragoza player. "It was our biggest match and we won it convincingly. After all we have been through, we are now calling the shots. We have to win both games to finish top of the pool, so we need our crowd to get behind us."
Leaders Sweden visit the Santiago Bernabéu Stadium on Saturday with a single point separating the sides. Then Northern Ireland – who like Denmark are five points behind Spain, with all the teams having two matches to play – come to Gran Canaria on the final day of qualifying, 21 November. Relief in sight then for coach Aragonés, for whom the 3-2 reverse in Northern Ireland and the 2-0 upset in Sweden only intensified speculation about his future.
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