Elche hosts the second UEFA Nations League game later this evening – a match which Spain go into with spirits high and full of optimism. We won at Wembley; the team looked self-assured moving forward - which was a relief to see after the nightmare of against Russia in Moscow, with a thousand passes for hardly a shot on goal. As far as the fans were concerned, that was the moment when it became clear that Spain’s tiki-taka passing model had had its day. It was only exasperated by the whole Florentino-Lopetegui-Rubiales-Hierro episode, which caused a sense of anxiety within the squad.
Confident going forward
The was how the situation looked when Luis Enrique took over. Saturday’s win at Wembley put the team back on track. Looking at in in more detail, Spain had gone 24 games without defeat (they went into the World Cup unbeaten) and countless games scoring at least one goal. But the most pleasing part of the England game was the joy with which the team moved forward, with a new, collective eagerness to get to the rival’s box, Saúl’s forays into attack and an inhibition to have a crack on goal. On the downside, the team looked insecure without the ball, had a tendency to lose possession too easily in midfield and seemed a bit too cocky in defence.
The latter was only too evident in the move which would have made it 2-2, when Welbeck got the better of Busquets, Sergio Ramos and De Gea, only for the ref to make a charitable call for a foul on the keeper. It’s not always going to be like that though. While it was a delight to see the team pushing forward with conviction and not falling asleep with the ball at their feet, there were problems at the back. That was the area that generated doubts at Wembley and now what better rivals than Croatia, World Cup runners-up, to put it right.