Arogones optimistic despite draw

Spain coach Luis Aragones brushed aside his side's inability to defeat Group 7 leaders Serbia & Montenegro on Wednesday, saying his side were still capable of earning automatic qualification for next year's finals.

Spain coach Luis Aragones brushed aside his side's inability to defeat Group 7 leaders Serbia & Montenegro on Wednesday, saying his side were still capable of earning automatic qualification for next year's finals.

Spain remain second, two points behind Serbia & Montenegro, with two games left to play after being held to a 1-1 draw in Madrid's Vicente Calderon stadium.

Raul put the home side in front as Spain threatened to run away with the game in the opening 45 minutes, but a second-half goal from Atletico Madrid striker Mateja Kezman ensured both sides finished level after a pulsating second half.

"It is still complicated for all the sides in the group, not only Spain," said Aragones.

"Serbia still have difficult games against Lithuania and Bosnia-Herzegovina, so it is all still to play for."

Aragones praised the efforts of his strikers who failed to take full advantage of their superiority during a first half which only earned one goal.

"The strikers worked very hard, I cannot fault them for their effort and fight. Obviously I would have been happier if they had scored more goals."

"But Serbia only managed two efforts on goals, scoring one, while we had at least three or four. If we had made it 2-0 it would have been all over."

Serbia & Montenegro coach Ilija Petkovic singled out giant striker Nikola Zigic for praise, after the Red Star Belgrade target man's second-half introduction was directly responsible for dragging the visitors back into the game, and almost winning it at the end.

"We have a player (Zigic) who is unique in European football," said Petkovic.

"We used him in a very simple way by putting him in the centre of the opposition defence and playing long high balls to him. It was remarkably successful."

With two games left to play Petkovic defiantely predicted that his side would secure automatic qualification in their last two games next month.

"We must keep our feet in the ground but I believe the point earned here will allow us to finish top of the group," he added.

"And I hope we meet Spain again in the finals. Both sides showed a great desire to win today but unfortunately neither side could find the win."

Spain's last two games are both away against Belgium and San Marino.
Source: PA Sport