WORLD CUP 2014

Del Bosque: “We moved the ball around quickly and well”

Spain defeats Italy in pre-World Cup friendly as Ronaldo becomes Portugal’s top scorer

Spain's Pedro (r) fires home his side's winning goal in the Vicente Calderón.
Spain's Pedro (r) fires home his side's winning goal in the Vicente Calderón.PAUL HANNA / REUTERS

Spain's final European encounter before the road to the Brazil World Cup narrows in North America – La Roja will play Bolivia in Seville in May and El Salvador in Washington in June – brought 2006 world champion Italy to Madrid. The game was low-key and a half-full stadium did little to urge either side into a higher gear, but Vicente del Bosque will largely have been pleased with what unfolded. A lackluster first half was punctuated by moments of brilliance from the feet of Andrés Iniesta, nothing less than expected from the player who buried the ball in Johannesburg for Spain's 2010 World Cup triumph, while César Azpilicueta acquitted himself well in the full-back role in the home side's 1-0 victory.

Spain dominated possession but failed to convert this into clear chances, Cesc and Pedro both failing to make Gianluigi Buffon uncomfortable when presented the opportunity. The latter made some penetrating runs in another performance that suggests he will be among the first names on Del Bosque's team sheet for Spain's opening match against the Netherlands in Salvador. But the majority of eyes were firmly fixed on Diego Costa. The Brazil-born Atlético Madrid striker made his eagerly awaited debut for Spain and although full of running he did not slot effortlessly into the machinery of La Roja. Several chances were spurned – one an air kick that carried a hint of nerves – and a late shot flashed across goal would have been more welcome at the feet of the onrushing David Silva at the far post.

The introduction of the Manchester City playmaker at half time lent Spain more drive and purpose. Silva is one of those players who wears football magnets in his boots and can turn even in the narrowest of corridors. Several times Silva split the Italy defense with a crafty touch but first Thiago and later Costa failed to apply the finishing touch. It was Silva who initiated the move that led to Spain's goal, a low drive from Pedro that squirmed under Buffon and into the net.

Once Diego loosens up, I'm sure he'll bring a lot to the team"

"We added vibrancy to our game; we moved the ball around quickly and well. We were also alert to Italy's advances on our goal. All of the players have become stronger – and we've brought in Diego Costa who we feel will gradually adapt to the team's style. None of the players can be detrimental to Spain's style and I thought Diego looked comfortable. He looked stable considering it was his first game but once he loosens up, I'm sure he'll being a lot to the team," said Del Bosque, who will name his provisional squad for the World Cup in May.

Elsewhere, Cristiano Ronaldo scored twice to become Portugal's all-time leading scorer in a 5-1 destruction of Cameroon, a friendly organized in Leiria with the country's group stage match against Ghana in mind. Ronaldo's brace took his tally for Portugal to 49, two more than Pauleta's haul. It was the Real Madrid forward's 110th cap for his country, pulling him level with Fernando Couto. Only Luís Figo has made more appearances for Portugal than Ronaldo, with 127 during his illustrious career.

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