Spain ended any doubts about whether it would be in Brazil to defend its World Cup title with a 2-0 win over Georgia in Albacete. La Roja required just a point to finish ahead of France and top Group I and that outcome wasn’t look in doubt after Alvaro Negredo put his side in front in the 26th minute. Juan Mata added a second just past the hour mark to secure Spain’s sixth win in eight qualifying games.
After a somewhat unconvincing 2-1 victory at home to Belarus, coach Vicente del Bosque made several changes to his side. Left back Alberto Moreno came in for his debut, while there was greater threat going out wide with the presence of Jesus Navas and Pedro. But perhaps the most notable performance of those coming into the side was by Negredo. After scoring as a substitute last Friday, the Manchester City striker struck again to perhaps establish a position as the current front-runner to lead the line for Spain at next year’s World Cup.
It could have been an even better night for Negredo. Early on he twice tested Georgia goalkeeper Aleksandr Gutor, first when pouncing on a rebound and then with a stunning overhead kick from the edge of the box that was so nearly the equal of Mexico’s Raul Jimenez from the recent qualifier against Panama. His goal, though, would soon arrive. Some typically delightful Spanish interplay involving Andres Iniesta and Pedro saw the former get to the byline and volley across goal for Negredo to finish at the near post.
Iker Casillas, restored to the starting lineup in place of Victor Valdes, was forced into action before the break with a good save at his near post to deny Nika Gelashvili.
With that rare drama averted, Spain clinched victory after the break. Navas headed a chipped ball into the danger zone and Georgia failed to clear, allowing substitute Mata to pounce and drill a low shot into the net.