The Nations League has gone so smoothly for Spain that they only need a point from this evening’s game to reach the finals, to be played in June next year between the four group winners. That’s football; how quickly things change. That unbearable game of one thousand and one (futile) passes in Moscow has now made way for a La Roja side that has scored twelve goals in three games. Luis Enrique’s desire to be Spain coach stretches back a long way, and in truth he has taken the opportunity with both hands. Now Seville, where La Selección always receives a warm welcome, readies itself for tonight’s spectacle against the ‘inventors’ of football.
Ramos and Betis
Of course, the stage tonight is the Benito Villamarín (which recovers its name after the Lopera phase), not to mention the fifteen thousand fans who turned up to the training session on Sunday. Most were Betis supporters, and tonight will be no different, because in Seville it's nigh on impossible for fans to go to a rival’s ground neutrally. Spain captain Sergio Ramos is from Seville and knows this all too well, which is why his affectionate comments about Betis on Sunday were a surprise and will guarantee a ‘warm’ welcome in his forthcoming trips to the Sánchez Pizjuán. I’m not sure if he was just playing to the crowd or was handing out an olive branch to fans he grew up amongst. Whatever the case, it will be the talk of the town.
A depleted England awaits Spain – Southgate’s squad are without Dele Alli, Delph, Lallana and Lingard, and against Croatia they also lost two starters, Stones and Henderson, who were both shown a second yellow, amounting to a one-game suspension in this tournament, which gets wiped clean in the finals. Southgate has left behind, along with his waistcoat, part of that magic touch he had at the World Cup, when England finally went some way to living up to the eternal hope and expectations of its supporters and a nation that has spent decades waiting to relive that side of ’66, with Banks, Moore, Charlton and Hurst. Nevertheless, I always have respect for England.