"Rather today than in Russia," said Spain keeper David de Gea after gifting Switzerland a goal in a World Cup warm-up this month. Well, now it has happened in Russia. He appeared to have left his hands behind in the dressing room when Portugal scored their second. And he positioned his wall badly for the third, too. After all, Cristiano Ronaldo didn't go over it, but around it, the ball skimming Sergio Busquets' ear on its way in. The wall was set for a left-footer, which Cristiano is not. "I haven't killed anyone," De Gea said in his own defence after the match. Of course he hasn't. But his errors cost us two points. He didn't just give goals away too easily, either; to top things off, he was also shaky bringing the ball out. A bad night at the office. And the worst thing about it is that it's one of a few now.
De Gea came into the World Cup on the back of a few errors
Because he not only came into the World Cup on the back of his gaffe against the Swiss, but had also thrown his cap on a tame header by Argentina's Nicolás Otamendi in March and, days earlier, could have done better with Thomas Müller's goal for Germany (which his advocates put down to the unpredictability of the new Adidas ball). A fine keeper for Manchester United, he has a sterling reputation in England and is even coveted by Real Madrid, but is yet to convince for Spain. Also at fault when beaten at his near post for that costly Croatia winner at Euro 2016, I don't feel like he's put any debates to bed. It seems more like he's fuelling them. Almost unanimously proclaimed Iker Casillas' heir, he's causing that status to teeter as the avoidable goals, whether crucial or not, begin to stack up.
In 2010, we conceded just twice; in 2018, we've let in three already...
Now that the worst of the recent crisis is seemingly behind us and Diego Costa has finally arrived as a Spain player, an issue we've been tiptoeing around has reared its ugly head again once and for all. As expected, Fernando Hierro leapt to De Gea's defence, declaring: "He's one of us". Sure, but no more so than Pepe Reina and Kepa Arrizabalaga, or all the other guys who didn't get a game in Sochi. In Spanish, we refer to our national team as La Selección: a moniker which, by definition, makes the side a meritocracy. Well, he isn't meriting his spot. In 2010, we conceded just two goals on our way to lifting the World Cup; this year, we've let in three already. Casillas was something special, of course, but I think we should at least be able to find a middle ground between him and what De Gea is bringing to the party.