Spain boss Vicente del Bosque has defended his record in charge of the European champions as criticism of his loyalty to senior players and decision to stay on after a disastrous World Cup mounts.

Del Bosque led Spain to their first ever World Cup in 2010 and a third European Championship victory two years later, but his legacy was tarnished when La Roja were dumped out of the World Cup after just two games after defeats to the Netherlands and Chile last June.

Spain face the Dutch once more in a friendly on Tuesday night with both sides having suffered setbacks early on in their bids to qualify for next year’s European Championships.

Netherlands coach Guus Hiddink joked he was wearing a bullet-proof vest as his side languish in third in Group A having won only two of their first five qualifiers.

Spain, meanwhile, edged past Ukraine 1-0 on Friday night, but still remain three points behind Group C leaders Slovakia.

“I am not thirsting for revenge against the Netherlands,” Del Bosque insisted on Monday. 

“The Netherlands have been on the podium in the last two World Cups and Spain, who have dominated during recent years, are giving the impression of having dipped in the last few months.

“In that dip, though, we have scored 14 goals and conceded three. We have played 31 games in four series of qualifiers with a balance of 28 wins, two draws and one defeat. I don’t think that is bad.

“Although I recognise that after the World Cup we haven’t played well, I can see good things. We are going in the right direction.”

Del Bosque’s decision to retain captain Iker Casillas in goal at the expense of the in-form David de Gea against Ukraine has been questioned, but the Manchester United stopper is expected to start at the Amsterdam Arena.

Sevilla winger Vitolo and Malaga forward Juanmi are also likely to make their international debuts with Del Bosque set to give some of his established stars a break ahead of a busy end to the club season. – Agence France-Presse

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