All eyes on Odegaard as Luis Enrique clicks reset button
The other day, the Spanish Football Federation put out a video in which Spain coach Luis Enrique is seen energetically climbing to the top of a scaffolding structure to shout out instructions to his squad as they trained. I could only admire his enthusiasm and exuberance as he bounded up the steps, and the forcefulness with which he directed his charges. I thought it was a good idea, even if it did all feel rather staged. His image needs a little bit of a boost; as La Roja get back into action, he could do with projecting a greater air of conviction to the supporters, because, in truth, that is precisely what he hasn't really shown in spades thus far: after all, calling up no fewer than 41 players for only a handful of games simply feels like too much. It all has a slight stabbing-in-the-dark look to it.
He doesn't have an easy job on his hands, clearly. He took over on the back of three straight tournament flops (World Cup 2014, Euro 2016 and World Cup 2018), and amid a continued collective yearning for a side that still feels so recent, but of which little now remains. We only have two centurions left, Sergio Ramos and Sergio Busquets; and players who are approaching 30 but did not get a look-in before because their predecessors were a cut above, such as Dani Parejo and Sergio Canales, look like being key figures in this new era. On Friday, Luis Enrique said he needed time, and gave the impression he's pretty much pushing the reset button and treating the Nations League games as if they never happened. But they did, and, as a result, what we're left with is a sensation of time squandered.
That's certainly not the case when it comes to Norway. They went up from League C to B. They're coached by Lars Lagerbäck, who brought unprecedented joy to Iceland by steering them to the last eight of Euro 2016 and knocking out England en route. He specialises in stubborn defences, so an awkward game is in store. That touch of flair will be brought to the side by Martin Odegaard, who'll have Real Madrid fans watching on with keen interest; they're eager to find out whether he has finally arrived, or indeed ever will. A classy player blessed with a lovely left foot, he's found himself locked in that trickiest of transitions: going from being an exciting prospect to actually delivering on that promise. All in all, it has the makings of a fascinating affair at Mestalla, if probably not a free-flowing one; an evening that will yield plenty of clues for the future and, hopefully, all three points.
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