Spain boss Vicente del Bosque is hoping his side can confirm their place at next year's FIFA World Cup™ finals tomorrow by extending their perfect record in Group 5 to eight matches.
Amazingly, their seventh win from seven - Saturday's 5-0 demolition of Belgium - was not enough to secure top spot, thanks largely to some stiff resistance from second-placed Bosnia-Herzegovina.
They are six points shy of top spot with nine points still to play for, meaning a Spanish win in Merida would secure first place if Bosnia-Herzegovina lose or draw at home to Turkey in Zenica. The group's top two meet in the final round of fixtures and although Del Bosque would hope to have qualification tied up before then, he refuses to be complacent.
It's a pity that after seven wins in seven encounters we still aren't
qualified, and that's largely because of the pressure from Bosnia.
"It's a pity that after seven wins in seven encounters we still aren't qualified, and that's largely because of the pressure from Bosnia," said Del Bosque. "We need to continue pushing on, because there are still points needed to be mathematically sure of going through. We cannot take anything for granted until we've achieved it."
The former Real Madrid boss is nonetheless pleased with his side's exemplary form in qualification, having watched David Villa and David Silva share four goals against Belgium, with defender Gerard Pique adding the fifth. "The team are carrying on the momentum from the European Championship which they won a year ago. We've played very well, with brilliant moments, against a good opponent who we've overcome with our quality and speed," said Del Bosque.
Liverpool striker Fernando Torres is another who is shocked that Spain's impressive efforts thus far have not been enough to see them seal their spot in South Africa next summer. "It seems incredible we have not yet qualified," said the forward. "But we hope that our best has not come yet. We want to improve, keep winning and getting better as a team, adapting to different systems."
In the group's other match, Armenia host Belgium in Yerevan looking for their first win of the campaign. The statistics are against them, with 17 goals against and only three for in their seven outings to date and one point from a possible 21.