Spain joined a select group of teams to record a perfect 2010 FIFA World Cup South AfricaTM qualifying record tonight, making it ten wins out of ten in European Zone, Group 5 with a 5-2 victory over Bosnia-Herzegovina in Zenica.
La Roja followed in the footsteps of countries such as West Germany in 1982 and the Netherlands this campaign by winning all their preliminary matches, sweeping aside the second-best team in their pool thanks to early goals from Gerard Pique and David Silva, and two in the second half from Alvaro Negredo on his first start for his country. Juan Mata then added a late fifth with his third goal in successive internationals before Bosnia-Herzegovina, who were already assured of a spot in the play-offs before this match, pulled two goals back in injury time from Edin Dzeko and Zvjezdan Misimovic to add a touch of respectability to the scoreline.
Tonight's victory will further establish Spain's credentials as one of the main favourites to win next year's FIFA World Cup - especially because they were missing the likes of Xavi, Fernando Torres, David Villa, Carles Puyol and Cesc Fabregas. But Vicente del Bosque's side will know it could have been a completely different story if Bosnia-Herzegovina had made the most of their early chances.
Spain goalkeeper Iker Casillas, playing his 99th match for his country, was in inspired form to keep the home side at bay. The Real Madrid custodian was first called into action in the seventh minute to parry Dzeko's effort, and moments later he did even better to push away Sejad Salihovic's shot as it arrowed towards the top corner.
The Spain goal should have been breached in the tenth minute, though, when Vedad Ibisevic latched on to a clever through-ball and rounded Casillas. But with an open net to aim for, the Hoffenheim striker sliced his shot wide of the near post.
That miss took on extra significance within three minutes, Spain netting twice in that time through Pique and Silva. The former broke the deadlock in the 12th minute, when he beat Bosnia-Herzegovina goalkeeper Nemanja Supic to Xabi Alonso's curling free-kick to glance home a header, and then seconds later Silva coolly slotted home from the edge of the box after Negredo's pin-point through-ball had bisected the home centre-backs.
From being under heavy pressure, Spain were suddenly in total control of the match - and they had a great chance to make it 3-0 in the 21st minute when Iniesta found Albert Riera in front of goal. But the Liverpool winger opted to control the ball instead of shooting first time, and that allowed the Bosnia-Herzegovina defence to get back and deflect his eventual effort behind for a corner.
Spain were threatening to make it embarrassing for their hosts. But Miroslav Blazevic's men were determined to give as good as they were getting, and Ibisevic almost pulled a goal back in the 23rd minute when he was denied by a brilliant one-handed block by Casillas at his near post.
Ten minutes later, Casillas produced another remarkable save to deflect Salihovic's shot behind following a good move. From the resulting corner, the unmarked Misimovic screwed his shot wide. Even though they did not manage to score, Bosnia-Herzegovina would have gone into half-time buoyed by their first-half performance and optimistic they could still get something out of the game.
However, any chance of that happening lasted just nine minutes of the second half as Spain doubled their lead to 4-0 thanks to Negredo - who started tonight's match, having made his debut during Saturday's 2-1 win over Armenia as a second-half replacement for Torres. The Sevilla forward's first goal for his country came in the 49th minute when he spun on the spot to fire home from 10 yards out following good work by Iniesta and Silva, and five minutes later he was celebrating his second.
Riera sent in a low cross from the left that neither Supic nor home captain Emir Spahic could successfully cut out, and Negredo took advantage to divert the ball into the roof of the net at the far post with his knee. Riera had a couple of chances to increase Spain's lead in the closing stages, but it was substitute Mata who did add the fifth when he raced on to Negredo's brilliant pass to fire home from inside the area.
That was not the end of the scoring, though, because Bosnia-Herzegovina finally got the goals their play deserved when Dzeko and Misimovic netted, both goals coming via deflections off of Andoni Iraola before beating Casillas.