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 By PA Sport

Spain 'must be given the merit it deserves' for World Cup qualification

Spain captain Sergio Ramos scored two penalties in an entertaining draw with Russia, in St Petersburg.
Julen Lopetegui believes Spain forward Isco is already a member of football's elite, and said the 'best is yet to come'.

Spain coach Julen Lopetegui felt he had seen just what he wanted from all the players following a 3-3 draw against 2018 World Cup hosts Russia in St Petersburg.

La Roja headed to the Petrovsky Stadium having won eight of their nine matches during 2017, and on the back of a 5-0 rout of Costa Rica.

Lopetegui opted to make five changes on Wednesday night, with Suso handed his senior international debut.

After seeing his side retain their unbeaten run, with two penalties from captain Sergio Ramos being matched by a double strike from Krasnodar frontman Fyodor Smolov, Lopetegui was left to reflect on a positive week with his squad who will now return to club battles.

"These have been tough matches, we have approached them very well," Lopetegui said at a post-match news conference.

"The aim was to see everyone, we have played well in both matches.

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"The balance of our team is very positive.

"We have achieved direct qualification and this must be given the merit it deserves.

"It is difficult to qualify -- we have seen Italy, Holland and Chile are out, so the level of competition is extremely high."

Lopetegui was impressed by the way Russia went about tackling the match as they prepare to host next summer's showpiece, having also faced Argentina in Moscow on Saturday when Sergio Aguero scored a late winner.

"I am not surprised by Russia's level because they came to play with extraordinary motivation," said the Spain boss, whose side had gone 2-0 up just after the half-hour mark before the hosts' recovery.

"When we lost control of the ball, we were vulnerable.

"We have to congratulate Russia for the work they have done."

Sergio Ramos converted two penalties in Spain's 3-3 friendly draw with Russia on Tuesday.

Russia goalkeeper Andrei Lunev had to go off for the closing stages and was taken to hospital following a head injury in a collision with Spanish winger Rodrigo, but the Zenit St Petersburg man later posted on social media he was "fine" and would "try to recover as soon as possible and return to the football field."

Coach Stanislav Cherchesov feels Russia should be happy with their current progress.

"The game was a success," he said, according to Sport Express Russia.

"This is the second match we have held at this stadium. The first we won, in the second the team have played a draw with measured football. We like this arena."

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