Spain out to set record straight in final two qualifiers

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MADRID, Nov 14 (Reuters) Spain are out to prove last year's Euro 2008 qualifier defeats to Sweden and Northern Ireland were simply a blip when the sides meet again for their final Group F encounters, striker David Villa said today.

Spain surprisingly lost 3-2 in Belfast in September 2006 and then 2-0 in Solna the following month, leaving coach Luis Aragones under intense pressure to step down. The setbacks came soon after a disappointing World Cup campaign in Germany.

It was the first time in 15 years Spain had lost two qualifiers in a row.

''The reason everything seemed so bad after the World Cup was because of those two games. We should take these games as a chance for some healthy revenge,'' Valencia striker Villa told reporters.

''We need to show those defeats were just accidents. After so much suffering, we are now in control of our own destiny and we should try to win the games to finish top.'' They are in high spirits after beating Denmark 3-1 away last month, to establish themselves in second place a point behind the leaders Sweden.

With two games to go, they have a five-point advantage over third-placed Denmark and fourth-placed Northern Ireland. The top two qualify for the finals.

Espanyol winger Albert Riera, who scored on his debut against Denmark, said: ''This is the final push. They are two vital games...

but the most important is the one against Sweden.

''After beating Denmark the fans are enthusiastic and hopeful that Spain can achieve something next summer.'' Spain play Sweden in the Bernabeu on Saturday, and host Northern Ireland in Las Palmas four days later.

REUTERS RAR VC2302

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