Can Spain qualify for the UEFA Nations League semi-finals after losing to Switzerland?
Following their 2-1 home defeat to Switzerland on Saturday, Spain need to get a result away to Portugal next week if they’re to reach the Nations League finals.
After their four-year unbeaten home run came to an end with defeat to Switzerland, qualification for the UEFA Nations League finals is still in Spain’s hands - but La Roja’s task just got a whole lot harder. The Spaniards went into Saturday’s clash in Zaragoza top of Group A2 and in a position to seal last-four qualification with a game to spare, but goals by Manuel Akanji and Breel Embolo, either side of a leveller by Jordi Alba, handed the hosts their first loss on Spanish soil since a 3-2 Nations League reverse to England in October 2018. Had Spain beaten the Swiss, a Portugal defeat to the Czech Republic would have confirmed them as group winners and sent them through to next June’s finals. However, a 4-0 win for the Portuguese in Prague, coupled with Spain’s loss at the Estadio La Romareda, saw the Seleção leapfrog their Iberian neighbours and claim pole position in the race to finish first.
Speaking post-match, Spain boss Luis Enrique bemoaned his side’s first-half display, describing it as “possibly the sloppiest” of his tenure as head coach. “I can’t remember another occasion where so many players have made so many mistakes,” he told reporters. Luis Enrique also expressed his annoyance at the fact that both the visitors’ goals came from corners: “Our defending for the first one was poor, and we could have done better for the second one, too.” However, the 52-year-old, who won 62 caps for Spain as a player, added that he has “complete faith” in his team, who now face a do-or-die visit to group leaders Portugal in the final round of league-phase games.
What do Spain need to do to qualify for the finals?
Saturday’s Group A2 results have left Spain sitting two points behind Portugal, who host La Roja in Braga on Tuesday. While a draw will now be good enough for the Portuguese to qualify for the finals, for Spain only a win will do. And the results of the sides’ most recent meetings hardly offer cause for optimism that the Spaniards can secure the victory they need. Spain haven’t beaten Portugal in 90 minutes in just over 12 years, since a David Villa goal earned them a 1-0 last-16 win on their way to lifting the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. The teams’ last four clashes have been draws (five if you count Spain’s penalty-shootout win in the Euro 2012 semi-finals), with three of those games played during Luis Enrique’s time as Spanish boss: two goalless friendlies in October 2020 and June 2021, and a 1-1 Nations League stalemate in June.
“We’ve played Portugal three times over the past season and a half or so, and have drawn all three - now we’ll go all out in the fourth,” Luis Enrique said on Saturday. “A draw won’t be good enough for us. We’ll take risks; we’ll push as hard as we can to win the game. Portugal are a side who have world-class players and who collectively are a really well-drilled unit. They had a very tough away assignment today - and have won comprehensively. We’ll go out there and look to make the most of the weapons we have at our disposal. We could have won each of the three games we’ve played against them, although it’s true that we could also have lost them.”
Portugal vs Spain: kick-off times, how to watch
Portugal and Spain’s Nations League matchday-six meeting at the Estádio Municipal de Braga will kick off at 7:45pm local time (WEST) on Tuesday 27 September. In the United States, that’s 2:45pm ET/11:45am PT. Viewers in the US will be able to watch the game on ViX, ViX+ and Fubo Sports Network, and there will also be live-text coverage of the action right here at AS USA.