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Liga Portuguesa

Tunisia 0-1 Spain: A goal by Iago Aspas and not much else

The traditional view used to be that, when it comes to the national team, there's no such thing as a friendly: every game is important, because every game puts the nation's footballing prestige on the line. That philosophy belongs much more to a bygone era when there were fewer competitive matches, though. These days, particularly when it's Spain we're talking, the contrast between the two different codes of international football is stark. It's rare to see La Roja truly go all out in a match in which tournament success is not at stake. Yesterday's friendly was one that they clearly weren't 100% interested in, a fact that at times brought vocal disapproval from the crowd in Krasnodar, a city that has given us such a warm welcome that the image of a bull was even embossed on the centre of the pitch.

Spain's apparent apathy shouldn't be a surprise, I suppose... 

I guess it's inevitable. The World Cup is days away, the players are fearful of injury, and their minds are sure to be on the tough opener coming up against Portugal. Getting themselves up for a game like this isn't easy. That seemed to be less of a problem for Tunisia, for whom facing Spain was an incentive in itself. That was evident. Spain did start well, pressing high up the pitch; but they quickly slackened off, and a well drilled Tunisia sought to exploit the gaps that we frequently left at the back. Thankfully, they were missing the two most dangerous components of their attack and could not find a finish. So in the end we were able to salvage a positive result, at least, courtesy of a late goal by Iago Aspas, who buried Diego Costa's lay-off with aplomb after the Atlético man had failed to find a way through.

Diego Costa and Iago Aspas celebrate Spain's winner over Tunisia.

Aspas salvages win, then offers worrying post-match comments...

Julen Lopetegui employed three separate game plans over the course of the night. First, tiki-taka, with a swarm of pass masters behind Rodrigo Moreno up top. The virtuoso Silva-Iniesta-Thiago-Isco quartet was not on song, though. After the break, he turned to a 'plan B' of Lucas Vázquez and Marco Asensio out wide (on their natural wings) and Costa driving through the middle. That was no great shakes, either, and he ended up switching to a three-man defence of Sergio Ramos, Gerard Piqué and Nacho (not for the first time) and adding firepower up front in Aspas, who earned himself a goal that spared Spain's blushes and put a gloss on a poor display. He also offered some slightly concerning post-match remarks, admitting La Roja "were feeling better about ourselves" before their World Cup warm-ups...