We saw 14 goals during yesterday’s action, when the second round of group games were concluded. We saw some good things – especially Colombia, who made amends for their poor start to the tournament. They played superbly – they have quality throughout the team and show eagerness and discipline. Senegal and Japan also looked impressive in their meeting which ended all square; two very different countries from polar part of the globe and with contrasting styles, which gave us another taste of football’s great diversity and variety. We also saw England rip Panama apart, with Harry Kane bagging a hat trick, and put himself up with Cristiano in the battle for the Golden Boot. Panama showed grace in defeat and celebrated their goal with great gusto – as though the six goals they had let in during the previous hour never happened.
Hierro cannot rotate his squad
Later this evening Spain are back in action, concluding the group against Morocco. We go into it on four points – what a shame we could only draw against Portugal. We played well against our neighbours, but the combined influence which Cristiano and De Gea had on the game left us with just one point. If it had turned out differently, and after beating Iran, today Hierro would have been in the enviable position to rest his first choice players and give playing time to some of the others. That’s always a good plan because it keeps one set of players fresh and keeps the others who are waiting in the wings from getting too anxious. But that’s not the case unfortunately and now the question facing the coach is whether to rest Iniesta or not. Iniesta didn’t have a particularly good game against Iran, although no one can forget that that it was his pass which led to the only goal of the match. But he’s now 34 and needs to rest occasionally.
Spain cannot underestimate Morocco
A draw with be enough – and even if we lose we could still make the Last 16 but finishing top of the group matters for prestige and also because, from how things are looking, it would probably lead to a less challenging route to the final. But before all of that, under no circumstances should we underestimate Morocco – a side who have played excellent football in both of their group stage matches but find themselves out of the tournament because of a combination of bad luck and a lack of firepower up front. In spite of that, there is no feeling of resentment within the Morocco camp, nor has it changed the way the team is viewed back home – Moroccans are proud of how their team qualified for the finals and for the first class standard of football they display. They’ll be going out to make sure they bow out on a high note – they have nothing to lose and that only makes them more dangerous.