MADRID, March 26 (Xinhua) — Spain kicked off its campaign to qualify for the 2022 World Cup finals with a disappointing 1-1 draw at home to Greece on Thursday after a game where coach Luis Enrique rang the changes but ended up with his side showing some worrying problems that could limit their success in this summer’s European Championships.
“We have all seen what was missing. It was difficult for us to create chances. We pushed our rivals back into their area, but we needed the final action. We didn’t create the chances we need to make,… I remember three chances and the rest were imprecisions,” admitted Enrique in his post-game press conference.
It was hard to remember that Spain’s last international game on November 17 will be remembered as a historic six-goal thrashing of Germany, as Thursday night saw the Spanish control 80 percent of possession and yet only manage two shots on target.
Both of those shots were from Alvaro Morata — the first ended in the back of the net and the second was a tame header at the keeper.
Dani Olmo was unlucky to hit the bar with a dipping shot, but Ferran Torres, who scored a hattrick against the Germans was reduced to a peripheral role stuck on the right touchline, while Olmo also operated wide of the penalty area often leaving Morata too isolated.
Meanwhile, the midfield of Rodrigo Hernandez, Koke and Sergio Canales failed to move the ball with the crispness they needed to stop a well-organized Greek side from getting bodies behind the ball every time Spain won possession.
Marco Llorente has been vital for Atletico Madrid this season, but the midfielder made his second international appearance at right-back — precisely the position where he has had his least effective games for Atletico this campaign as it limits his ability to rampage forward and cause havoc around the rival penalty area.
In many ways, logically, the Spanish should have looked so flat: this international break comes after a non-stop spell of football, with some teams playing 20 matches since the turn of the year and with only a couple of days break over Christmas.
Barcelona’s Ansu Fati is still out injured and he would inject some freshness and pace into attack, but the 18-year-old’s ongoing knee problems look as if they will keep him out of this summer’s European Championships and Spain has to look elsewhere for inspiration.
With barely time to draw breath before Spain’s next game, Enrique will probably make changes. The best news of Thursday night was the debuts of youngsters Bryan Gil and Pedri, with Gil showing the will and the talent to beat rivals out wide lacking in the first 70 minutes.
Pedri could partner with Sergio Busquets in Georgia on Sunday, with the Barcelona partnership helping their understanding, and Mikel Oyarzabal’s form this season with Real Sociedad should earn him a start rather than a role off the subs’ bench.
Finally, Enrique would do well to push Llorente into his preferred midfield role and hand a debut to Pedro Porro, who is the only natural right-back in his squad. That alone would give more balance to the team and a player arriving from deep as Llorente does would add another element to a side needing to show that the recent thrashing of Germany wasn’t a one-off. Enditem