MADRID, June 26, 2010 (AFP) - Spain's laboured qualification for the second round of the World Cup as they bid to add that title to their European crown received little praise from the domestic press on Saturday.
El Pais labelled the Spanish squad as looking like they were undergoing torture after watching their three group games - a 1-0 defeat by Switzerland, a 2-0 win over Honduras and a 2-1 victory over Chile - to finish top of their group but face a tough clash with 2006 semi-finalists Portugal on Tuesday in Cape Town.
|Chile's goalkeeper Claudio Bravo fails to pull of a shot from Spain's midfielder Andres Iniesta during the match on June 25, 2010. AFP|
"Spain obviously likes torture," opined El Pais, who went on to wonder where the dominant Spain of the past two years had disappeared to.
"After this third match we have still not seen the Spain, neither of Vienna (where they beat Germany 1-0 for the Euro 2008 title), nor of the past few months (they had a 12 match winning streak until they lost to Switzerland).
"The team is just not gelling."
However, El Pais does hold out hope that having breached the first barrier that 'The Red Fury' under coach Vicente del Bosque can rediscover their former elan.
"Now we have come through the Calvary of the first round," it is "time that Spain becomes the Spain of old."
Other papers weren't quite so downbeat with one of the sports dailies Marca congratulating them on coping with the added pressure of being strong favourites prior to the finals.
"Del Bosque's squad showed its capacity to work well under extreme pressure," it wrote, under the front page headline: 'Cristiano (Ronaldo), prepare yourself,' referring to the captain of the Portuguese side, who plays for Real Madrid.
"So, we are in the second round, but be careful, we have won nothing yet."
Its sports daily rival As ran the headline of 'Champions of the group!' and on the inside pages praises the squad for a 'professional job in the group stages,' thanks mainly to the 'individual talents' of David Villa and Andres Iniesta, who scored the goals against Chile.
"This match (against Chile) served as a big lesson, we were better in terms of individual players, but we lost in terms of teamwork," added As.
For El Mundo, Spain ended up top of its group against an 'intense opponent'.
"Pressure, pressure and pressure, from all sides," commented El Mundo.
"After having beaten a very good Chile side, it is now a real king of the jungle that awaits them (the Spanish), Cristiano".