“The greater the chaos, the closer you are to the solution,” Arrigo Sacchi told me back in the 90s when he took charge of an Atlético side on the brink of disaster. His words made me think. In his press conference before the Slovakia game, Luis Enrique said that he had the feeling that for Spain, the cork was about to pop. And he was spot on. From the chaos of the last half hour of the Poland game, the pressure was finally released and the champagne flowed out - just as the coach predicted. He made four changes to the team (five compared to the first game) and, aided by Slovakia's weaknesses and impulsed by Van der Vaart's remarks, Spain ended the Euro 2020 group stage with a flurry of goals.
And at one point during the evening, we were close to ending top of the group. In the end, Spain finished second, which isn't so bad. Busquets' return was key - he gave the team balance and that greatly improved Spain's game. The sideways passing was kept to a minimum, both Sarabia and Azpilicueta enjoyed a good game and the team was quick to press as soon as they lost the ball and that gave the attack a fresh impetus. In spite of all that, the first goal took a while in coming - Sarabia and Pedri didn't put away two clear chances and Morata missed a penalty. The pressure valve was finally released after Slovakia's keeper palmed the ball into his own net following an effort from Sarabia.
Croatia await in the Last 16
After that, the goals flowed. One of them, a delightful backheel finish from Ferran Torres, crowning a wonderful passing move involving Sarabia and Pedri. With the result in the bag, Luis Enrique began resting players and giving opportunities to others such as Adama Traoré, who responded enthusiastically. It was a happy end to the evening, only clouded briefly by a few whistles aimed at Morata when he was taken off (his pre-match comments didn't go down well with everybody) but they were soon drowned out by applause. Busquets spoke emotionally to television cameras afterwards, recalling the tension of the past few days. Now Croatia await us in Copenhagen on Monday. The big boys will be further down the line, but today is all about enjoying this moment and thinking about Croatia.