Nations League regrets linger as Spain go to Faroe Islands
Tonight, Spain face an assignment with a difference away to the lowly Faroe Islands, an archipelago located quite some way off that is part of the Kingdom of Denmark but is largely autonomous, and has its own domestic league. A nation of just 50,000 people, a good 12% of their population are expected to be inside their Tórsvollur home stadium, whose 6,040 capacity makes it the largest in the country. They'll be in good spirits, one would imagine, as most of them are Liverpool fans; their 3,000-strong supporters' club will still be enjoying the Reds' Champions League win the other night. The Faroes' pitch is made of artificial turf, and heavy rain is expected during the game - playing conditions that are hardly ideal, it's fair to say.
Faroes trip slightly reminds me of Finland '69...
On paper, Spain should have very little to fear from a team ranked 102nd in the world, not least because they will be without two men who are, by all accounts, their best players: their first-choice keeper, and the striker who is their chief source of goals. But, as I've noted before in this column, this end-of-term trip rather reminds me of another that Spain made, to Finland back in 1969, at a time when the gulf between countries with and without a major footballing heritage was all the greater. We lost that game 2-0, a result that put paid to the coaching trio of Miguel Muñoz, Salvador Artigas and Luis Molowny (the bosses of Real Madrid, Barcelona and Las Palmas, respectively), and led to Ladislao Kubala's appointment.
It's a trip we just have to get through, before focusing our attentions on Sweden's visit to Madrid on Monday. All the while, our gaze also turns ruefully to Portugal, where we might well have been had the wheels not come off our Nations League campaign so comprehensively. Our old mucker Cristiano Ronaldo is in the final thanks to his hat-trick against the Swiss, who played well but, of course, have nothing like him in their ranks. After starting the group stage so well, our dreams of going to the finals were scotched by the collapse in our results and, having beaten us in Seville, the English went instead. They went down to the Dutch last night; after missing the World Cup in Russia, the Oranje are on the up once more.