Spain coach Luis Enrique has a month to solve the nation’s goal problems if he wants to reach the Final Four of the Nations League. That was the verdict on Wednesday after the team managed just one goal in three games in this international break.
“Without goals we are going nowhere,” was the Marca starter the morning after a disappointing 1-0 loss to Ukraine in Kiev.
“The lack of goals condemns Spain”, headlined Diario AS. One of its columnists declared: “Thank you Switzerland” in recognition of the Swiss draw with Germany that kept Spain at the top of Group A4 despite the slip.
“We deserved to win,” Luis Enrique said after the game. “The ball just didn’t want to go in, but we were infinitely superior to them and we should have won by more than one goal.”
That will do nothing to ease concerns about the team’s chances of winning a tournament anytime soon.
The Spain coach has already spoken openly about Spain’s lack of an absolute center forward and seeing Spain return to Kiev, where they won Euro 2012 4-0 against Italy, also playing without a typical number nine, brought back memories of the last time they dominated world football.
They were at the height of their powers during that tournament scoring 12 goals and conceding just one.
Coach Vicente del Bosque called the victory over Italy in the final the best match of its time and when the team lost to Brazil in a Confederations Cup match a year later, it ended a 29-match winless streak.
Wednesday’s loss suggested that Luis Enrique’s current group will not reach the same heights as that team and should look for a goal specialist from somewhere to help them solve the games they dominate.
Where the solutions come from will now be debated by Spanish football fans for the next four weeks.
One thing has become increasingly clear in the last three games: Luis Enrique will not be afraid to experiment.
Tuesday’s game was the fifteenth in charge of team selection and it was also the fifteenth different eleven he had chosen.
To debut Adama Traore and José Campana during this international break, he has now used 52 players.
Veteran Real Madrid defender Sergio Ramos has played 14 of 15 to date, but it’s hard to find someone else who has always been the first choice at his position.
The brightest of the three games – Spain drew 0-0 with Portugal in a friendly and beat Switzerland 1-0 before Ukraine’s defeat – is that for the most part the football has been good.
“Some games are more difficult than others and we have to improve certain things, but playing like this with a little more precision in front of goal we can aspire to great things,” said left-back Sergio Reguilón. “We have to be more ruthless in front of the goal.”
Spain’s next two games are Nations League away games in Switzerland on November 14 and at home to Germany three days later.
The Spanish leader has seven points in Group A4 of the top flight, with Germany and Ukraine each with six and Switzerland last with two.