After Thursday’s game in Zagreb, Luis Enrique said something which I kind of liked in a way – he would love La Roja to reach the Nations League finals but the real objective is making sure Spain qualify for Euro 2020 with a rejuvenated side. It reminded me of one of Aesop’s fables, the one about the fox and grapes. The chance to win the Nations League trophy has captured the public’s imagination here in Spain - and with good reason considering the great start the team enjoyed to the competition. Before England’s visit to the Villamarín we were just one point from being guaranteed finishing as champions of the group with a game in hand. However things have changed since then. Now we need England and Croatia to draw tomorrow. Yesterday’s hopes have turned to exasperation.
Key areas to be addressed
As for qualifying for Euro 2020, there are some big decisions still to be made. One is over who is going to partner Sergio Ramos in central defence which, as it stands, is far from clear. Another, and it pains me to ask the question, is if Busquets is capable of racking up 60 games a year. There’s also the issue of whether it’s really worth insisting in an Asensio who is now so far removed from all of that initial promise he showed. Also, who’s going to be in charge of getting the goals. Aspas and Alcácer have convinced more than the rest but as soon as the going got tough in Zagreb, the Celta forward made way for Morata and Alcácer wasn’t even if the squad for some strange reason which was almost as bizarre as what went on with Iñigo Martínez a few days earlier. It was almost as if he didn’t really care if he was called up for national team duty or not...
The goalkeeping issue
And last but not least, we have the issue of the goalkeeping position. That’s an area which has caused the most consternation. For some reason, here in Spain, (where consensus is a rare thing indeed), all of us took it as read that De Gea was Casillas’ natural successor. Now it’s being obvious that isn’t the case; why they are sticking with him I anyone’s guess – mateyness, superstition… who knows? In the meantime, nostalgia for Iker Casillas has grown to such an extent that half of those who took part in our recent poll (over 100,000 in just a few hours) want to see him back with the national team. Four out of 10 want to see Kepa stepping up. De Gea came fourth - even behind Pau, both gaining 5% of the votes. It’s tough but the general lack of confidence is mostly his doing. I’ve never seen Spain’s goal as badly defended with such frequency as in the team’s most recent outings.