A headed goal by defender Juanito from a Jose Antonio Reyes free kick in the 36th minute was enough for Spain to see off the Saudis, who put up a good fight in the second half and held Spain to their lowest score in the tournament so far.

Spanish coach Luis Aragones handed starts to 11 bench players in the match at the Fritz-Walter Stadium, with the wily 67 year old resting all his starting players from Spain’s previous two games.

Arsenal midfielder Reyes who is pressing for a permanent starting spot was the star of the show in the first half, as he has had several shots on target as well as being the provider for his team’s goal.

A perfect delivery into the box by Reyes saw Real Betis player Juanito get ahead of his marker and then get a head on the ball, powering it past Saudi Arabian keeper Mabrouk Zaid.

The Al-Ittihad shot stopper was a busy man in the first 45 minutes, and Spain could have been at least three goals to the good if it wasn’t for the Saudi keeper’s heroics.

Sami al-Jabar (c) in a Spanish
sandwhich

The second half saw the Spainiards drop off slightly, happy to keep their 1-0 lead and finish the group stage with maximum points, and it was the Asian team who had the better of the chances late in the match.

In the 71st minute, Al-Ahli defender Hussein Sulimani made a long run and then unleashed a good left foot shot which stand-in Spanish keeper Santiago Canizares parried for a corner.

With just minutes remaining Saudi Arabia could have had an equaliser when Al-Nasr striker Saad Al Harthi got on the end of an excellent Mohammed Noor pass, but put his shot over the bar from just eight yards out and right in front.

The Saudis haven’t won a World Cup Finals match since USA 1994, and will now need to wait another four years to try again with Brazilian coach Marcos Paqueta looking likely to join the long line of ex-Saudi Arabian managers.

Spain will now play the runner-up in Group G in the round of 16, which will be decided later tonight as South Korea, Switzerland, and France battle it out for a place in the next stage.