Under constant scrutiny since trying to regain lost prestige, Spain faces tonight in Solna (20.45, TVE1) a duel described by Luis Enrique as “vital” for qualifying for the Qatar 2022 World Cup. The need to at least not lose Before the stony Sweden, he meets the requirement to maintain the flame that the selection fanned with his arrival in the semifinals of the last European Championship. “I’m not going to lie either, after the European Championship there are a lot more people who cheer you on and congratulate you because they have enjoyed a great championship,” acknowledges Luis Enrique.
Given the significance that surrounds the match, the Spanish coach appeared before the press on one of those days when he seems to want to release the tension by joking with the press officer and with the translator, who was demanded haste in his work. The technician is concerned that the appointment arrives with the players at the beginning of the competitions and without the completion of the set-up: “These are the beginning of the competition in which you are not yet 100%, but my work and mine staff is to insist to the players on the vital importance of beating Sweden ”.
The duel is transcendental for La Roja because only the former will directly access the World Cup. Spain now leads their group with seven points to six of their rival, but this one has one game less. The selection penalty for the draw it signed in Seville against Greece (1-1). A defeat would greatly complicate the ticket to Qatar because the second in each of the 10 groups, plus two teams from the League of Nations, are doomed to a diabolical play-off in which three places are distributed. The 12 divided into four groups of three, access to the World Cup event means winning a semifinal and a final in a single match and on a field to be designated by lottery. If Spain falls tonight, its journey to the World Cup will enter dangerous terrain. “A play-off with that format implies a lot of risk,” admitted the Asturian coach on Wednesday.
Under that pressure, Luis Enrique has spread a message among his players aimed at emphasizing the game shown in the European Championship as the line to follow. The coach defends that no team played better than Spain. With the statistics in hand, the coach also argues that in the Eurocup no one generated more scoring chances than Spain or made more centers to the area. The message has permeated the internationals, who repeat it as convinced as their coach. However, Luis Enrique clarifies the importance of what has been achieved. “The Eurocup belongs to the past, we resumed a qualifying phase for the World Cup. There is so much equality in modern football that thinking that you have done something well 40 or 60 days ago does not benefit you, indeed, it can be even stimulating for the rival “, warns Luis Enrique
The game idea remains non-negotiable. The suffocating pressure on the opponent’s ball exit and the possession of the ball, playing it from Unai Simón’s boots, are concepts that the group has internalized without conditions. The commitment to style is so firm that not even with the urgency of scoring the selector puts the result before the game. “I always stay with the game because it is the one that brings you closer to the result. I never talk to the players about the result, because it is known that if you play well and create opportunities, then you have a better chance of winning the games. This is our mindset. Of course, this is football and you can lose ”, emphasized the coach.
It remains to be seen if the Eurocup has finally consolidated an eleven type, which was one of the issues that was attributed to Luis Enrique. Among the casualties with respect to the European, the most sensitive is that of Pedri, who became untouchable. The break due to the saturation of the Barça midfielder’s matches opens a dispute for the position of the third midfielder to accompany Busquets and Koke. The Valencian player Carlos Soler sounds strong after the tests carried out during the week. In attack, Ferran Torres, Morata and Sarabia are postulated as the finishers of a football that has lacked a goal on many occasions. “Most of the players have been to the European. It is about repeating behaviors, reminding the players that they are no longer in their clubs and that here we do different things, in attack and defense, ”concluded Luis Enrique.
A more aggressive Sweden in attack
The match between Spain and Sweden in Seville (0-0), in the group stage of the Eurocup, is still in progress for both teams. “The previous ones are going to suffer for the unquestionable style of the two teams, they giving us the ball, waiting for us to counterattack or hurt us with set pieces”, ventured Luis Enrique, who will try to achieve Spain’s first victory in Sweden (four draws and one loss).
The Swedish press reminded local coach Jan Andersson that the Spanish coach criticized the Swedish game after the match, something that Luis Enrique denied: “I have never complained about the attitude of the Swedish team or any other opponent. Everyone chooses how they want to play this sport ”, the Asturian coach wanted to clarify when faced with questions from the Swedish media.
“I have not stopped to think once that he will be on the other side. We prepare to face Spain. If Luis Enrique is not happy, it is a good sign ”, Andersson had said on Wednesday morning. He insisted that his team should try to have more of the ball than in the meeting two months ago in Seville, where it barely reached 25% possession. “We must accept that Spain is going to have the ball more than us, it is their way of playing. As I said, it is important that we are well on defense, but when we have the ball, we want to play our game and have it more than in Seville, as happened in the qualifying match for the European Championship in Stockholm, “said Andersson, who pointed out that” the key it is to be able to overcome the pressure from Spain to harm them ”.
Without being able to count on Zlatan Ibrahimovic, injured, and with the withdrawal of the national team after the European Championship, of forward Marcus Berg, Andersson wants to trust that greater number of arrivals to the Spanish area that he aims at the realist Isak and the skilled Kulusevski, who missed the Seville meeting for the coronavirus.
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