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Spain did everything except score against Portugal


Euro 2020 is almost upon us and to get us into the mood we had an aperitif served up by Spain and Portugal, who are making a joint bid to hold the World Cup in 2030. I’m not sure if it will work out, considering it is the centenary and there will be many suitors to host the event. But I am glad we are going hand in hand with our neighbors with this initiative.

The match at the Wanda Metropolitano was a simple and clean affair, played in the presence of the heads of state of each country, the King of Spain and President of Portugal. In the exchanging of shirts before the game, the Portuguese went to great lengths to screen print the name of Felipe VI on theirs, more so than we did with the name of Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa on ours.

And then came the football, as 15,000 spectators watched a serious and competitive game, with both teams not giving away a yard. Spain coach Luis Enrique had a few surprises in his line-up but not in goal, where he insisted on Athletic Bilbao’s Unai Simón, who again showed evidence of insecurity.

Spain the better side against Portugal

Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo in action with Spain's Diego Llorente.
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Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo in action with Spain's Diego Llorente.SERGIO PEREZREUTERS

That and, above all, the lack of goals were the two weaknesses to point out in this Spanish side, which, otherwise, played well. Luis Enrique has a group of players at the service of an idea in which they believe and interpret well. They put pressure on the opponent where it is most appropriate, they steal the ball, and attack down the wings -- all working as a unit. They were the better side against Portugal, the current Euro champions and Nations League champions.

Marcos Llorente's role as a full back can be debated because in that position he makes less of a contribution up front, but the truth is that he worked well in that role on Friday night, where his strength was impressive. It was strange to play with two left-footed central defenders, Pau Torres and Laporte, while Thiago is still taking unnecessary risks. But the group works well together and looks solid in attack, until they get in front of goal.

They produced half a dozen decent attacks to put themselves in a goalscoring position, but only forced Rui Partricio into one great save, a headed strike by Ferran Torres. Aside from that was Alvaro Morata’s attempt that hit the crossbar, the clearest chance of all, while the rest were blunders that are difficult to explain.