Group H
Spain 1-0 Saudi Arabia

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Spain recorded their third group win when they overcame Saudi Arabia in Kaiserslautern.

With Spain already assured of qualifying, coach Luis Aragones took the opportunity to rest the eleven that had started in the previous two group matches.

Spain captain Raul started for the first time at this World Cup, accompanied by Joaquin and Jose Antonio Reyes up front in a new-look side.

Arsenal’s Cesc Fabregas and Andres Iniesta were chosen in midfield, while 36-year-old reserve keeper Santiago Canizares started behind a revamped back four.

Saudi coach Marcos Paqueta made three changes to the team hammered 4-0 by Ukraine in their last match, bringing in Sami Al Jaber and Saad Al Harthi up front and Abdulaziz Al Khathran in midfield.

Saudi Arabia knew they had to score at least four goals to stand a chance of qualifying, but that unlikely scoreline seemed a long way from their thoughts in the first half as they attempted to repel wave after wave of Spanish attacks.

Mabrouk Zaid produced a series of saves in the Saudi goal, with Joaquin, Jose Antonio Reyes and David Albelda all going close. However, a Juanito header from a Reyes free-kick finally beat him.

With the Saudis seemingly content to avoid a humiliating defeat, it was not entirely surprising that Spain did not increase their lead. The massed ranks of the Saudi defence ensured respectability, but they also ensured that the Spanish keeper Canivares was a virtual spectator for most of the game.

After the break, Saudi Arabia did finally begin to press forward and Hussein Sulimani twice brought decent saves from Canizares.

Al Harthi could have snatched point in the closing moments at the death when he collected Mohamed Noor’s pull-back. However, he cleared the bar from six yards to make it 10 matches without a win in World Cup finals for Saudi Arabia.

Spain: Canizares, Salgado, Marchena, Antonio Lopez, Juanito, Albelda, Reyes, Iniesta, Joaquin, Fabregas, Raul. Subs: Casillas, Pernia, Puyol, Xavi, Torres, Luis Garcia, Alonso, Sergio Ramos, Senna, Villa, Pablo, Reina.

Subs used: Villa 45 (for Raul), Xavi 66 (for Fabregas), Torres 69 (for Reyes).

Bookings: Albelda 30, Reyes 35, Marchena 75.

Saudi Arabia: Zaid, Dokhi, Tukar, Al Montashari, Khathran, Sulimani, Noor, Khariri, Aziz, Al Jaber, Al Harthi.
Subs used: Al Temyat 13 (for Aziz), Mouath 68 (for Al Jaber)

Bookings: Al Jaber 27, Al Temyat 77.

Referee: Coffi Codjia (Benin).

Spain: Juanito 36

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