Spain's vital victory strangles Slovenia's Euro Hopes
By Amjad Baker
Spain's strangle-hold on a game that gave them their 2-1 win narrowed Slovenia's Euro 2000 hopes. The Spanish men clicked their championship bandwagon into overdrive when a delightful win on Sunday revived their quarterfinals hopes and eliminated their rivals from the championship. Spain faced certain exit from the championship if they lost this match against the Slovenian outsiders. A fourth-minute strike from Raul opened the scoring, when he pounced to lash the ball into the top corner of Malden Dabanovic's post after Michel Salgadro's speculative effort had ricocheted kindly into his path."
It was a blistering drive for Real Madrid star adding his 17th international goal, which cured Spain's tension and proved that his team is capable of upsetting the odds.
AFP quoted Raul as saying "I am very happy. We can sleep easily now.
But after 58 minutes, Slovenia's Zlatko Zahovic squared the match with his third goal of the tournament. Spain, however, did not have to wait long for their winning goal because two minutes later, Joseba Etxeberria struck back for Spain after a fine set up by Gaizka Mendieta.
Slovenia were hardly getting a look-in, and their desperation in the opening 30 minutes was best summed up by a hopeful dive by Zahovic in the vain hope of winning a penalty. So theatrical was the fall that even Slovenia coach Katanec allowed himself a smile on the touchline.
The relief of redemption shone from the face of Spain coach, Jose Antonio Camacho, who had been under pressure since his team lost their opening match 1-0 to Norway. Prior to this crucial match, most sports journalist had, with vitriolic pens, slammed the Spanish team with headlines high lighting the painful team history, and the curse of failure that had dogged their championship steps. "There are some people here who do not know a lot about football," said Camacho.
The happy coach, at ease after the victory contrasted their matches against Norway and Spain saying "our task was to win. We played better against Norway but lost. We were playing in difficult conditions."
Spain dominated the first half hour, but Slovenia came into the game in the final 15 minutes of the opening period.
On the half hour mark Slovenia produced their first real raid of the match when Djoni Novak centered and Mladen Rudonja' shot was deflected behind for a corner.
"I am disappointed," Zahovic told AFP. "We were as good as Spain. Sometimes we are lacking in concentration but we are not used to playing against the big teams," - Albawaba.com
© 2000 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)