Spain's World Cup dress rehearsal against Tunisia... with VAR
A dress rehearsal in full costume awaits us in the city of Krasnodar, within a fantastic stadium which was described to me as 'a futuristic Roman circus' by my colleague Javier Matallanas. Sergio Ramos, Sergio Busquets and Isco, all absent against Switzerland, will play, and the first choice XI is expected to start, with the exception of Dani Carvajal. The Madrid full-back is not ready yet, but Lopetegui remains confident that he will not have to be removed from the squad. It would appear that his position in the line-up will be occupied by Nacho, despite Odriozola impressing against the Swiss. Spain's World Cup curtain raiser against Portugal is just six days away, and will require a stronger side defensively. For this reason, in this final warm-up game Nacho has the advantage. Odriozola is brilliant going forward, but less seasoned at the back.
Find the gap: Spain know their fate
Facing them will be Tunisia, which will not tell us too much, however in the last year they have risen from 42nd to 21st in Fifa's ranking. Guided by the hand of Nabil Maaloul, a former bright light as a player and now a national hero as manager, the side is undefeated under him, with five wins and four draws. One of those draws, out of interest, was in a recent game against Portugal. They have a strong defensive unit to compensate for what they are missing in attacking stars. So, we already know, this will be a case of Spain pressing high in search of that elusive gap. That is what lies ahead for us and so that is what we must continue to work on, including shots from distance, something we are less prone to do.
Russia 2018: the VAR World Cup
And, of course, VAR will be present, although it is not the first time it has been used in a match involving La Roja. It was part of an experiment a year and a half ago in a France-Spain friendly. And it worked a treat for us: rightly disallowing a goal for France and then rewarding us with one that had been wrongly ruled out. Velasco Carballo explained in detail how the VAR operation will work to the players, something we've reported on before. Lopetegui remains concerned about one aspect related to the system: the speed at which the team switch back on following a VAR intervention, a moment which has proven to often lead to costly lapses in concentration. VAR is this World Cup's novelty and we'll all have to learn to look at football in a different way.
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