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Spain face the might of Modric

"We weren’t that bad before but we aren’t that good now either." That is one of the most repeated topics in football and it always comes up when the opinion about a team changes when the results change -- like now, for example, with the Spanish team. Let’s say there is some truth in that, but not the whole truth.

Spain weren't that bad, perhaps almost good, between the boxes, but were poor inside both penalty areas. From the one who played against Sweden to the one who played against Slovakia there were five changes -- half the team, discounting the goalkeeper. And, understandably, most of those changes were in defense and attack.

Luis Enrique knew how to rectify the problem and the team finally scored goals and left no cracks at the back in the 5-0 win against Slovakia. A win is all it takes to change the mood around a team, and since football also tends to create exaggerated feelings, the gloomy spirit has been transformed into optimism.

Spain coach Luis Enrique watches on as his players train ahead of their Euro last-16 tie with Croatia.
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Spain coach Luis Enrique watches on as his players train ahead of their Euro last-16 tie with Croatia.MIGUEL MORENATTIDIARIO AS

Croatia a real test for Spain

But we will get a true measure of ourselves against Croatia on Monday. If it were theater we would say that the second act is beginning, the core of the play. The first act has been the presentation of a parade of characters that allows us to imagine the plot. From there, we have come second in an easy group, despite having home advantage in all of our games.

Now we face a team whose strings are pulled by Luka Modric, who has given a master class in each game. Luckily for Spain, Perisic will be missing due to COVID. We do not know who will start for Spain, but it is reasonable to assume that Luis Enrique will select those who restored our sense of optimism against Slovakia. Although there are those who do not rule out that Dani Olmo or Ferran Torres will return to the starting lineup ahead of Gerard Moreno, whom Luis Enrique does not see fitting into his model. In any case, we can expect a brave performance and we are in a much better place than we were a week ago.