MADRID, Dec. 2 (.) –
The Spanish soccer team will now have four days to make an analysis of what happened in the first phase of the World Cup in Qatar, an event that began with a great dose of optimism that has been reduced before facing the first face or tail duel .
Spain reaches the round of 16 of the competition with a somewhat ‘touched’ spirit after having put at risk a ticket for the crossings that seemed to be within reach without major complications. She was only out for three minutes in that run during the loss to Japan, but that loss, and the game that unfolded, was a cold water jug that may wake her up anyway.
The three-time European champion will try to return to the quarterfinals of a World Cup on Tuesday against Morocco, one of the revelations in Qatar, undefeated and with only one goal conceded, and also with a lot of talent in their ranks. Even so, the theoretical favoritism, due to potential, experience and ranking, must fall on the ‘Red’ who in this journey that began in the summer of 2018 with Luis Enrique Martínez has only lost one qualifying game.
It was in the final of the last League of Nations, when the world champion fell to France 2-1, in a duel that went ahead. He came to that game after beating Italy 2-1 in the semifinals of the ‘Final Four’, while in the last Euro Cup they beat Croatia in the round of 16 (5-3), and drew against Switzerland in the quarterfinals (1- 1), passing on penalties, and against the ‘Azzurra’ in the semifinals (1-1), falling from eleven meters.
And Spain will need to recover their offensive freshness against an opponent who already knows how they can hurt them. Japan showed that defensive discipline and closing spaces from the inside to the Spaniards can clog their traditional fluid game, which did appear against Costa Rica in the spectacular opening game and, at times, against Germany.
The debut raised a wave of optimism about the options of going far again in a World Cup, an elusive appointment both in 2014, with the elimination in the group stage when defending the title, and in 2018, with the goodbye on penalties against a rival theoretically accessible as the host Russia. On the other hand, against the ‘Tico’ team, the goalscoring explosion reflected in the 7-0 score encouraged and further strengthened a ‘Red’, which Luis Enrique sees in his “best moment”.
But from there, things began to go wrong. Against Germany in need, the 2010 world champion was competitive, had good moments and even went on to win 1-0 after a good team play that culminated in Álvaro Morata, but despite having a couple of options to sentence, ended up being dominated by the from Hansi Flick that they managed to match.
Even so, the national team reached the third day as the leader of Group E, with four points, one more than Japan and Costa Rica, and three more than the Germans. Everything seemed well on track to be first, especially when Morata made it 0-1 against the ‘Samurais Azules’ after eleven minutes, but, somewhat unexpectedly, everything got complicated in the blink of an eye.
The Japanese came back with a brilliant start to the second half and, against all odds, the ‘ticos’ did the same against the four-time world champion. That caused Spain to be eliminated from the World Cup, only for a brief space because Germany finally managed to win and put Luis Enrique’s men as seconds, unable to equalize despite more than 80 percent possession, reflected only in just three shots on goal, including the goal.
This defeat increases the bad statistics in big events for the Spanish team since it was proclaimed European champion in 2012. In this way, in the 20 games it has played between the three World Cups and the two Euro Cups, it has only won seven, 35 percent: to Australia (2014), Iran (2018) and Costa Rica (2022) in the World Cups, and to the Czech Republic and Turkey in EURO 2016, and to Slovakia and Croatia, extra time in between, in 2020.
Together with Japan, the Netherlands and Chile, in the World Cup in Brazil, and Croatia and Italy, in the Euro Cup in France, they are the teams that have defeated it, while the rest are tied (Portugal, Morocco and Russia in 2018, Sweden , Poland, Switzerland and Italy at EURO 2020, and Germany at this World Cup).
UNAI, RODRI AND DANI OLMO, UNDISPUTED
Now, Luis Enrique and the team have time to reflect ahead of the decisive stretch of a World Cup in which the road to the final now puts mainly European rivals such as Portugal, France or England on its theoretical route.
In this sense, the Asturian coach has been faithful to his idea and has not repeated eleven in any of the three games and only three players have played everything: Unai Simón, Rodri, converted to center back, and Dani Olmo, who has been the The only one on the offensive front who has not had a rest. Along with these three, Sergio Busquets, Pedri and Gavi have always been starters, although they have been replaced.
In total, the Gijón coach has used 19 of his 26 players. In addition to the other two goalkeepers (Robert Sánchez and David Raya), defenders Eric García and Hugo Guillamón, midfielder Marcos Llorente, and forwards Yéremi Pino and Pablo Sarabia have not yet had their chance.
Morata, despite starting only against the Japanese and having played not an hour in his three games, has once again been the best scorer, with three goals, one per game. Ferran Torres scored two on the day in Costa Rica, and the rest of the scorers were Dani Olmo, Marco Asensio, Gavi and Carlos Soler.