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Soccer

Enrique: “It’s not going to be easy to play against Spain”

Spain’s late victory over Portugal secured their spot in the Nations League semifinals and showed they aren’t going to be easy to beat.

Update:

Luis Enrique, Spain’s head coach, is feeling optimistic after their 1-0 win over Portugal to secure a spot in the final four of the UEFA Nations League. It was a late victory and it looked like Portugal might take the lead at times in Braga, but Spain was patient and it paid off.

Álvaro Morata scored a goal with two minutes left to play, handing Spain their first victory over Portugal since 2003 and putting them atop Group A2 with 11 points. They will join Croatia, Italy, and the Netherlands in the finals.

Portugal would have needed a tie game to top the group, and it often seemed like they’d get just that. Spain’s goalie, Unai Simón had other plans. He denied goals by both Diogo Jota and Cristiano Ronaldo.

“Ronaldo had three or four chances, two of them very good ones, the kind he normally scores, but he didn’t,” said Portugal’s head coach Fernando Santos. “The best answer would be having the chance to play tomorrow and prove things aren’t like this. But we will play at the World Cup with the same conviction we had before this match.”

Towards the end of the game, Morata made sure it wouldn’t be a tie when Nico Williams kicked the ball his way. No other player has scored more goals for Spain under Enrique than Morata, who’s tied with Ferran Torres with 13 goals.

“It was a final for us, away from home,” said Enrique. “And these players and those who have been involved before have already shown that it’s not easy to play against Spain. It’s not going to be in the World Cup either.

“If teams want to beat us, they’re going to have to do things and do them well,” said Enrique.

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