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SOCCER

Luis Enrique laments “worst half” of his time as Spain coach

Spain crashed to a 1-2 defeat to Switzerland on Saturday, with Luis Enrique particularly annoyed by their first-half performance in Zaragoza.

Update:
Soccer Football - UEFA Nations League - Group B - Spain v Switzerland - La Romareda, Zaragoza, Spain - September 24, 2022 Spain coach Luis Enrique holds the match ball REUTERS/Juan Medina
JUAN MEDINAREUTERS

Luis Enrique felt that Spain’s dire performance in the first half of Saturday’s defeat to Switzerland was the worst 45 minutes he has seen during his time as national team coach. Spain slumped to a disappointing 1-2 defeat in Zaragoza that leaves them trailing Portugal by two points in Nations League Group A2 heading into the last game. That final group match is on Tuesday as Spain prepare to face the leaders in Braga, with Fernando Santos’ side 4-0 winners over the Czech Republic on Saturday. Luis Enrique handed two players their debut with the senior side - Nico Williams and Borja Iglesias.

Zero chances

La Roja did not muster a single shot on target until Jordi Alba’s 55th-minute equaliser at La Romareda, and Luis Enrique could not hide his disappointment at the showing. “Losing is always something that hurts. It has been a pity, but we must give credit to Switzerland, who from the beginning caused us many difficulties,” the coach said. “In the first half, it was the worst of my time as coach. [Then] we have badly defended the corner of their second goal. In the second half we improved. We have tried until the end. The key game is Portugal. We will go to Braga to win.”

The manner of Saturday’s loss clearly perturbed Luis Enrique, understandable given the World Cup starts in less than two months. Yet, he is refusing to blow it out of proportion, adamant he does not need to re-evaluate his faith in the squad just because of one result.

Asked if the game generated doubts in relation to Qatar 2022, Luis Enrique replied: “Of course. Obviously it’s better to go to Qatar on a winning streak, but I have full confidence in the team. I have seen many players in the first half who have been more imprecise than ever, but the opponents are good, they know how they play. But everything doesn’t always go well, when you don’t have a good day, this happens. A victory against Portugal would be the perfect way to reach the World Cup. We have drawn three times with them and now we will go there to win.”

Portugal only need a draw on Tuesday to seal their place in the Nations League Finals for the second time.

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