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All to play for in wide open Group B


Spain’s 2-0 victory over Kosovo in Pristina has cleared the air for Luis Enrique’s side, who now depend on their own results following Sweden’s 2-1 defeat in Greece. However, Spain’s position is not entirely unique in Group B given that Sweden also depend on themselves: Janne Andersson’s side will also go through automatically as group winners if they win all of their remaining games. And after their victory Greece are suddenly in a very good position, three points off the Swedes and still unbeaten. In any case, with both their rivals enjoying two games in hand, the panorama is better now for Spain than it was, although qualification as group winners now seems to hinge on two fixtures: the trip to Greece and the final game, when Sweden visit Spain.

Regarding the game against Kosovo, we could echo Luis Aragonés, who would often say a result of that kind was one to “be happy with, but not to boast about.” Spain won, which is always good, and by two excellent goals, which is even better, one either side of half time. The first came from a ball played forward by Aymeric Laporte, which Carlos Soler touched on to Álvaro Morata, who teed up Pablo Fornals to lash in a great strike on the half turn. And towards the end of the game, Ferran Torres ran on to a deep ball, shook off his markers and fired Spain into a two-goal lead. It was never going to be an easy game but Spain passed the test.

Spain benefit from Kosovo's lack of clinical edge

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He goals were the plus side. On the other side of the coin, once again, was the defensive tangle. Spain offered up half a dozen decent chances through a catalogue of errors, both individual and collective. Fortunately, the Kosovan front line of Elbasan Rashica and Vedat Muriqi, are not the most fearsome strikers, particularly in the case of Rashica, who had three one-on-ones with Unai Simón that he failed to convert in different ways. As bad as we were defending, Kosovo matched it in their finishing and when things looked dangerous, Unai was there to save the day. But there is something about this Spain side that needs to be instilled ahead of more decisive challenges: defensive reliability.