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Ramos penalty misses: Sommer demoralised the Spain captain


Spain’s draw with Switzerland, allied with Germany’s win over Ukraine, means La Roja have to beat the Germans in Seville on Tuesday if they’re to reach the UEFA Nations League finals. That’s the only way they can top their group and claim the only ticket to the last four. Saturday’s stalemate is a setback whose most visible cause is a quite extraordinary turn of events: having scored 25 straight penalties, Sergio Ramos missed not one, but two spot-kicks. Twice the Swiss keeper, Yann Sommer, was not taken in by Ramos’ attempts to fool him and got to his weak efforts. When the defender stepped up second time round, it felt like Sommer had demoralised him. It’s a night the Spain skipper will not forget in a hurry.

Ramos penalty misses not the only reason Spain didn't win

Had Ramos netted just one of his penalties, Gerard Moreno’s late goal would have left Spain needing just a draw against Germany to win Group A4. That would be a different task entirely, but there we go. It’s also true that there were other factors that contributed to Spain’s failure to get the three points in Basel. They play a bright, positive brand of football but they still don’t quite convince. They’re a little soft in the tackle, suffer from moments of defensive disorganisation (the hosts’ goal was a shining example of that) and the forward line that started the match - Ferran Torres, Dani Olmo and Mikel Oyarzabal - lacked bite. A trio of classy, intelligent footballers, sure; but none offers the killer instinct that an out-and-out striker does.

Traoré, Morata and Moreno give Spain greater attacking punch

Luis Enrique, who had sprung a selection surprise by starting Unai Simón in goal (he did well, except for a misguided dash out of his area which, had it not been for Ramos’ goal-line clearance, would have led to Switzerland’s second), changed things in attack in the second 45 and Spain benefited. Adama Traoré (who began on the left before switching to the right), Álvaro Morata and Moreno showed greater punch and purpose. Their introduction brought about a much improved Spain who increasingly pinned the Swiss back and at least saved face by grabbing a draw. It’s now all or nothing against Germany: only a win will do. A crunch occasion to look forward to - one that may help us feel a bit more passion for this competition.