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SLOVAKIA

Slovakia down Spain 2-1 in famous victory

Former Chelsea midfielder Miroslav Stoch struck three minutes from time as Slovakia stunned defending champions Spain 2-1 in a Euro 2016 qualifier in Zilina on Thursday.

Slovakia down Spain 2-1 in famous victory
Juraj Kucka (C) of Slovakia celebrates his goal during the Slovakia–Spain Euro 2016 qualifing football match in Zilina on Thursday. Photo: Samuel Kubani/AFP

The central European minnows now top qualifying Group C after this famous victory, although Spain coach Vicente Del Bosque won't be too concerned with qualification a near certainty.

It was Spain's first Euro qualifying defeat since 2006.

And yet, having trailed for 65 minutes of this encounter after Juraj Kucka's free-kick, they had appeared to salvage a draw through Paco Alcacer's strike eight minutes from time.

Yet Al Ain's Stoch — now plying his trade in Abu Dhabi having fallen a long way since his heady Premier League days — had the last word.

Slovakia showed no early fear against their illustrious opponents and could have taken the lead after 11 minutes.

Captain Marek Hamsik played right-back Peter Pekarik into space and his cross was met on the volley by Robert Mak, but Iker Casillas made a stunning save one-handed to deny him.

The reprieve was short, though, as Real Madrid's Casillas quickly went from hero to villain.

Slovakia went in front on 17 minutes as Kucka's free-kick, which admittedly swerved, deceived Casillas, who seemed to move out of the way before getting only a faint touch as it flew down the middle of the goal.

That sparked a reaction from Spain as Cesc Fabregas's corner broke to Raul Albiol on edge of the six-yard box, but despite being given two bites at the cherry he ended up prodding the ball high and wide.

The champions were almost made to pay as Mak played a one-two with Hamsik and fired in a left-footed shot that might have been going wide, but Casillas took no chances and helped it around the post.

On the stroke of half-time Spain were within a whisker of equalizing but Slovak goalkeeper Matus Kozacik made a brilliant double save to beat out Diego Costa's header from another Fabregas corner and then react quickly to save Sergio Busquets's acrobatic volley from the follow-up.

Spain started the second period brightly and produced an identical move to Slovakia's at the start of the game, this time Kozacik saving one-handed from Fabregas.

Moments later Costa ran purposefully at goal and unleashed a low strike that forced Kozacik into another stop.

Spain seemed to be running out of steam when suddenly, with eight minutes left, they equalized.

There was more than a suspicion of offside about it but substitute Alcacer controlled Jorge Alba's ball over the top and fired confidently past Kozacik with the Slovakian defence desperately looking at the linesman.

Moments later Costa teed up Fabregas on the edge of the area but the Chelsea playmaker blazed over the bar.

But with just three minutes left Slovakia launched a classic, rapier counter-attack as Hamsik played substitute Michal Duris down the inside right channel to cross for fellow replacement Stoch to head home at the back post with Spain's rearguard stretched.

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Del Bosque quits as Spain coach after poor Euro 2016

Vicente del Bosque said on Thursday that he has resigned as coach of Spain, just days after the reigning champions crashed out of Euro 2016.

Del Bosque quits as Spain coach after poor Euro 2016
Spain coach Vicente del Bosque announced he is quitting. Photo: AFP

“Without a doubt, I have no intention to remain as coach, but you have to be discreet. No matter what the result of the Euros, I had no doubt about what my future would be,” he told Spanish public radio RNE, confirming reports in sports dailies AS and Marca that he had quit.

Spain were eliminated from Euro 2016 on Monday following a meek 2-0 defeat to Italy and Marca says that ex-Granada coach Joaquin Caparros will take over.

Del Bosque, 65, who succeeded the late Luis Aragones after Spain's triumph at Euro 2008, is a popular figure in Spain after leading the national team to a maiden World Cup victory in 2010 and a second consecutive European Championship two years later.

But some felt a fresh start was needed after Spain's failure to advance beyond the group stage at the 2014 World Cup finals in Brazil, however del Bosque had stayed in the job for France.

He said he will remain in the post until his contract expired on July 31st. Nobody at the Spanish football federation had asked for his advice regarding who should replace him, he said.

“I would be excited to manage the national team, any Spanish coach would be honoured to take this job. But I hope Vicente stays, he is the best coach possible,” Caparros told Marca.

Caparros has managed a host of Spanish clubs including Villarreal, Sevilla, Athletic Bilbao and Levante, but he is currently out of work.

Among the other names tipped to replace del Bosque is former Spain under-21 boss Julen Lopetegui, Granada coach Paco Jemez and former Marseille coach Jose Miguel Gonzalez.

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