KALININGRAD, Russia, June 24, 2018 (News Wires) - Spain midfielder Isco believes his side must stay true to the philosophy that brought them World Cup glory in 2010 to achieve the result they need in on Monday’s Group B decider against Morocco.
After a breathless 3-3 draw with Portugal in their opening game, La Roja laboured to a 1-0 victory over Iran, and require at least a point in Kaliningrad against a Morocco side playing for pride to guarantee a last 16 berth.
“We have to be faithful to the end to the style of play that defines us,” the Real Madrid playmaker told reporters ahead of the game.
“We have to play, pass a lot, keep the ball. If we play quickly across the pitch the chances will come.”
Along with Real teammates Lucas Vazquez and Marco Asensio, Isco represents the cream of a new crop of Spanish talent looking to fill the void left in the national team after legend Xavi’s retirement.
“This is my first time in a big competition with the national side,” he said. “I feel at ease but it’s easier with all the big players in the side.”
Playing behind striker Diego Costa, Isco has delighted Spain fans this tournament with his deft touch and vision, but the team heads to Russia’s European enclave knowing the job is far from done.
While they could progress with a draw they would need to win and score more goals than Portugal in their match with Iran in order to guarantee top spot in Group B.
Coach Fernando Hierro, who only took the job two days before the tournament began after the shock dismissal of Julen Lopetegui, said his team won’t underestimate a Morocco squad that are yet to pick up a point.
“This is the World Cup, and not one single game is going to be easy,” Hierro said. “We can improve, and I hope we will keep winning while we do so, but nobody is giving anything away easily.
“In certain groups teams have already qualified (for the last 16) but our group is very tough. We have no option but to secure all three points against Morocco.”
The North Africans were the first team to be eliminated from the tournament but Herve Renard’s men have acquitted themselves well.
They were desperately unlucky to lose 1-0 in their opener against Iran due to a disastrous 95th-minute Aziz Bouhaddouz own goal.
Against Portugal they attacked fluidly and deserved something from a match that saw them force several smart saves from Rui Patricio yet ultimately walked away with nothing in the 1-0 loss.
GIBRALTAR, June 23, 2018 (News Wires) - A total of 418 migrants were rescued in three operations off the coast of Spain on Saturday, the national rescue service said.
In the largest of these, 262 people on 15 vessels were rescued in the Strait of Gibraltar, Salvamento Maritimo said on Twitter.
Twenty-seven others were found in the Mediterranean between Spain and Morocco and 129 more off the Canary Islands in the Atlantic Ocean.
The operations come six days after 630 migrants arrived in the Spanish port of Valencia aboard three vessels, including the NGO rescue ship Aquarius.
The Aquarius rescued the migrants off Libya's coast on June 9 but Italy's new populist government and Malta both refused to let it dock, triggering an international outcry, before Spain stepped in to help.
Germany has called an EU mini summit for Sunday to discuss the migration issue.
Spain was the third most popular destination for migrants in the European Union last year after Italy and Greece.
Most migrants travel in packed boats from Morocco's northern shore to Spain's southern coast, a distance of over 100 kilometres (60 miles) depending on the route.
MADRID, June 22, 2018 (News Wires) - Catalonia's pro-independence political leaders are snubbing the Spanish king in their latest public challenge to rule from Madrid.
Catalan President Quim Torra says his regional government won't invite the monarchy to any official event, nor will it send representatives to any royal event, because King Felipe VI refuses to discuss the possibility of the wealthy northeastern region seceding from Spain.
Torra and other leading Catalan politicians are demanding that Spain's central government respect a unilateral declaration of independence passed by separatists in October.
The monarch, like the Madrid-based national government, has rejected Catalan secession.
In an announcement in the Catalan capital Barcelona on Friday, Torra said "we are not subjects, we are citizens."
Torra is due to meet with Spain's new prime minister, Pedro Sanchez, on July 9.
CAIRO, June 19, 2018 - In order to protect the country’s soil, seas and borders, navel units from Egypt and Spain have started comprehensive drills on Tuesday, which were held off Alexandria and some Red Sea governorates.
The drills came within the framework of Egypt’s keenness on strengthening its naval ties with Spain in order to deal with emergency situations, meet challenges and defend the homeland.
These drills aim at honing the skills of the Egyptian naval troops, which will be involved in the implementation and management of fighting missions.
The drills included manoeuvres in which the highly trained Egyptian and Spanish officers used various models of speedboats, frigates and rocket launchers, as well as troop carriers.
During the exercise, the Egyptian officers and soldiers demonstrated their ability to protect Egyptian seas and skies during times of peace and war.
A flotilla of speedboats joined the drills, which naval operations aimed at intercepting enemy vessels, as well as the provision of air support to operations.
The Egyptian and Spanish commanders exhibited their ability to protect the nation’s coasts against infiltration, smuggling and terrorist operations. They also showed their ability to safeguard giant ships and tankers as they entered Egypt’s territorial waters whether by day or night.
The naval drills also incorporated a firing exercise with live ammunition during which Egyptian and Spanish speedboats destroyed moving and stationary targets.
The drills also included another challenging sea defence exercise, in which various units dealt crippling blows to a simulated group of enemy ships and submarines before entering Egyptian territorial waters.
Following the exercises, all units returned safely to base.
MOSCOW, June 19, 2018 (News Wires) – Coach Carlos Queiroz said Iran will soak up the experience of facing World Cup contenders Spain on Wednesday but warned the Lions of Persia will produce their "best game ever" as they strive to cause the shock of the tournament.
Days after celebrating only their second-ever World Cup win in five editions with a 1-0 victory over Morocco that sent them top of Group B, Iran are expected to return to earth with a bump against a Spain side oozing class.
"For us it's a privilege and an honour to be here. It's a unique opportunity for us to play against Spain, one of the candidates to win the World Cup," Queiroz told a packed and, at times, chaotic media conference in Kazan on Tuesday.
"We're in a win-win situation because it's a unique opportunity for our national team to learn more about the game and to grow as players."
Atletico Madrid striker Diego Costa scored twice while Real Madrid defender Nacho gave Spain a 3-2 lead before Cristiano Ronaldo snatched a 3-3 draw for Portugal with a late third in a spectacular game in Sochi last Friday.
Queiroz is under no illusions about the superiority of Fernando Hierro's side as the Spaniards look to claim their first win of the tournament.
But he says Iran are in Russia carrying the hopes of an entire nation, not just to make up the numbers.
"If there was a magic potion to stop the Spanish team, then $1 million would not be too much to buy it, even though we do have some financial troubles," said Queiroz, who was flanked by AEK Athens midfielder Masoud Shojaei.
Queiroz, a former assistant to Alex Ferguson at Manchester United, sounded a defiant message, saying Spain could boss the match technically but could not control how much Iran will fight.
"We are well aware of Spain's reputation, so we'll have to play our best game ever. In the end the football gods will decide," he said.
SOCHI, Russia, June 17, 2018 (News Wires) - Portugal captain Cristiano Ronaldo lit up the World Cup in his own inimitable style late Friday, curling in a late free kick to complete a remarkable hat-trick and earn his team a 3-3 draw in an enthralling clash with neighbours Spain.
In by far the best game of the tournament so far, Ronaldo twice put Portugal in front, Diego Costa replied each time, Nacho gave Spain the lead with a stunning volley and Ronaldo then had the last word with a superb free kick he won himself.
Ronaldo has a relatively poor free-kick record for Portugal and when he and Raphael Guerreiro both stepped up in the 88th minute, many of their fans might have hoped the left back would have been allowed to have a go instead of his skipper.
Instead, Ronaldo stood with his legs apart in familiar pose, rolled up his shorts and curled an exquisite effort around the Spain wall and into the net past the helpless David de Gea.
The 33-year-old, who took his tally to 84 goals in 151 games for the European champions, became the fourth player to score in four World Cups after Brazil great Pele and Germany's Uwe Seeler and Miroslav Klose.
He also became the first player to score in eight major tournaments in succession after hitting the target in the last four European Championship tournaments.
The goal denied Spain what would have been a morale-boosting win after a traumatic and extraordinary week which saw coach Julen Lopetegui sacked on Wednesday, barely 48 hours before kick off in the Group B game.
The Spanish federation said Lopetegui had negotiated a contract to take over at Real Madrid without their knowledge, and replaced him with Fernando Hierro who took charge on Friday.
Nacho's first goal for Spain and a blunder by their usually reliable keeper David De Gea were almost lost in the drama.
The other match in the section was pedestrian by comparison yet it was Iran who went top of the standings with three points after their 1-0 stoppage-time win over Morocco.
"I'm very happy, it is a personal best (the hat-trick), one more in my career and the most important thing is to highlight what the team has done," said Ronaldo.
The match got off to an explosive start when Ronaldo beat Nacho on the left of the box with a stepover, was tripped and emphatically converted the penalty himself.
Spain quickly got into their stride and Costa equalised in the 24th minute as he latched onto a long ball forward by Sergio Busquets, bundled off a challenge from Pepe, slipped around two defenders and slotted his shot past Rui Patricio.
The goal was confirmed after the incident was reviewed by the video assistant referee (VAR), being used at the World Cup for the first time, for a possible foul on Pepe.
Spain appeared to be on top as Isco rifled a shot against the bar, only for Ronaldo to strike again one minute before halftime with the help of De Gea's blunder as the ball hit his hand and slipped agonisingly into the net.
Costa levelled from close range 10 minutes after the break, Spain went ahead for the first time with a remarkable strike from Nacho, who met the ball on the volley at an awkward height and sent an inswinging shot in off the post.
Spain thought they had won the game but Portugal had other ideas as Ronaldo provided the perfect end to another extraordinary night in his career.
Hierro was clearly happy after his first match in charge as his team showed they should by no means be written off.
"We feel very proud of the players after the adversity of the match itself," he said. "We've come back and equalised twice, we feel great commitment and pride."