Spain in World Cup finals

<img border='0' align='left' title=' ' src='' class='caption'> Spain qualified for an eighth straight World Cup finals with a 1-1 draw against Slovakia, in the second leg of their playoff on Wednesday.

Updated: February 25, 2007 10:53 IST
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Spain qualified for an eighth straight World Cup finals with a 1-1 draw against Slovakia, in the second leg of their playoff on Wednesday. Slovak substitute Filip Holosko opened the scoring in the 50th minute at Tehelne Pole stadium, but Spain substitute David Villa leveled 21 minutes later to give Spain a 6-2 aggregate victory. "Getting to the finals is a big thing. We'll go to the finals with humility but we have enough quality to do something big. We hope we'll all be at our best," Spain midfielder Xavi Hernandez said. Unbeaten record Spain's draw extended coach Luis Aragones' unbeaten record to 18 games, while Slovakia remained without a home defeat in nearly 2 1/2 years. "I'm happy for my players, for my country and for myself. Spain has always qualified for the last 30 years, so there's not a lot to celebrate. But I'm content, we've done the job," Aragones said. Ladislav Petras, who acted as Slovakia coach with Dusan Galis forced to watch from the stand due to his ejection in Saturday's game, praised Spain on Slovak TV, although he said Slovakia could have won. "The Spaniards have a strong team, so I think it is right that they will be going to the World Cup. We tried for a good result, good play, which we managed to a degree," Petras said. "In Madrid, we underestimated a few things. But I think that this second match has shown that we can play well against such an opponent." Little impact After its 5-1 defeat in Madrid on Saturday, Slovakia needed to win by four goals to reach the finals for the first time since the country split from the Czech Republic in 1993. But the home team initially made little impact on the Spanish defense. Slovakia almost fell behind in the 19th minute when captain Raul Gonzalez shot just wide after intercepting a misplaced pass by Vrastislav Gresko. The visitors had another chance in the 31st after goalkeeper Kamil Contofalsky dropped a cross from Vicente Rodriguez on the right, and Spain striker Fernando Torres went close with a shot three minutes later. Sweeping past Slovakia roused itself after the interval and scored after an attempted clearance from right back Michel Salgado took a rebound. Holosko, who had replaced Ivan Hodur at the start of the second half, swept the ball past goalkeeper Iker Casillas. Torres had a goalbound shot cleared from under the posts by Radoslav Zabavnik in the 59th but his replacement, Villa, did even better when he equalized on a counterattack 12 minutes later. Spain piled forward in search of a winning goal, but Contofalsky showed his agility to deny substitute Fernando Morientes in the 81st and another substitute, Sergio Ramos, eight minutes later. Lineups: Slovakia: Kamil Contofalsky; Vrastislav Gresko (Marek Cech, 78), Martin Skrtel, Roman Kratochvil, Radoslav Zabavnik, Peter Hlinka, Matej Krajcik, Ivan Hodur (Filip Holosko, 46), Jan Durica, Szilard Nemeth (Branislav Fodrek, 82), Robert Vittek. Spain: Iker Casillas; Michel Salgado, Carles Puyol, Pablo Ibanez, Antonio Lopez; Ruben Baraja, Xabi Alonso, Xavi Hernandez (Sergio Ramos, 74), Vicente Rodriguez; Fernando Torres (David Villa, 62), Raul Gonzalez (Fernando Morientes, 65). Referee: Markus Merk (Germany) (AP)

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