Reality hits Spain and Luis de la Fuente in a grim night at Hampden Park


Spain’s 0-2 defeat in Tuesday’s Euro 2024 Group A sport in Scotland was utterly deserved, however neither new coach Luis de la Fuente nor his gamers appeared to understand it afterwards.

“The sport went as we anticipated, it was very troublesome for the traits of the rival,” De la Fuente stated at the post-game press convention. “But we had a plan and we caught to it. We had two accidents which have been punished, as can occur at the best stage. I’m glad because the gamers adopted the plan we had labored on in coaching, we performed properly, made possibilities, did the issues that we’ve got to insist on in the long run.” This was not a view shared by most observers, as a fairly unrecognisable Spain group went behind after simply six minutes, and then hardly ever seemed prone to get again into the sport. Scotland seemed the way more cohesive and organised unit, and had many of the sport’s high particular person performers.

After successful his first sport in cost 3-0 in opposition to Norway final Saturday in Malaga, De la Fuente made eight modifications to his beginning XI, protecting a promise to make use of as many gamers as attainable in his first two video games in cost.

One of the eight new gamers was Tottenham right-back Pedro Porro — whose slip on six minutes allowed Andy Robertson to tee up Scott McTominay to fireplace in the opener. 

There was dangerous luck concerned, however Scotland had additionally began on the entrance foot, pushing Spain again, and forcing the error from a participant successful simply his second senior cap. The whole La Roja beginning XI had simply 155 caps between them earlier than kick-off, most not promising youngsters however moderately gamers in their mid-20s who’ve by no means actually established themselves at the highest stage.

Making his worldwide debut was Osasuna centre-back David Garcia, at the age of 29. Garcia is an impressively dogged defender, however by no means earlier coach Luis Enrique as a consequence of his lack of high quality on the ball. He had a very testing debut, outsprinted at one level by QPR quantity 9 Lyndon Dykes, and simply a type of culpable when McTominay made it 2-0 quickly after half-time.

De la Fuente stored making modifications, however his group by no means actually apprehensive Scotland. As the second half went on, the guests seemed more and more missing in confidence and concepts, uncertain of what they might do to even create a first rate probability. Scotland goalkeeper Angus Gunn had a very snug 90 minutes, and the Hampden crowd had one in all their most pleasing evenings in years. 

Luis de la Fuente has not loved a perfect begin to life as Spain’s supervisor (Photo by Nigel French/Sportsphoto/Allstar by way of Getty Images)

Captain Rodri stated afterwards that Scotland scored the one two possibilities they made, and Spain had simply been unfortunate that their alternatives didn’t go in. Mikel Merino claimed the group had given a good picture and performed very properly. Dani Ceballos complained that the ball rolled very slowly on the Hampden Park turf. None accepted what most onlookers might see clearly — that Scotland had been a lot the higher group and deserved their win.

All the Spain gamers on media obligation spoke about how troublesome it was to interrupt down a deep mendacity Scottish defence. That was a shock as De la Fuente had apparently solved eventualities like that together with his 32 yr previous Plan B centre-forward Joselu final Saturday in opposition to Norway, but it surely was by no means going to be that straightforward once more.

The largest takeaway from the 2 video games is that Spain’s stage of participant has dropped dramatically from their golden period from Euro 2008, by World Cup 2010 to Euro 2012. Nobody expects them to mechanically produce one other golden technology of the standard of Xavi, Andres Iniesta, David Villa, Gerard Pique et al. But this group doesn’t even look at the extent of Spain squads in earlier a long time with high gamers from Real Madrid, Barcelona, Atletico Madrid and others.

Spain’s XI at Hampden featured zero Barca gamers and zero Atletico gamers. Ceballos was the one face from Real Madrid, and he’s a squad participant at the Bernabeu who’s out of contract in June. Rodri was one in all solely two starters who’ve performed common Champions League soccer this season, with the opposite being Chelsea goalkeeper Kepa.

Instead the 11 have been drawn from 10 completely different golf equipment. Real Sociedad — fourth in La Liga — have been the one facet with two. Mid-table sides Athletic Bilbao, Osasuna, Villarreal and Espanyol have been all represented, and relegation battlers Valencia had Jose Gaya at left-back. Those coming off the bench included Iago Aspas of Celta Vigo and Borja Iglesias of Real Betis.

Manchester City’s Rodri is but to totally impress on the worldwide stage (Photo by Robbie Jay Barratt – AMA/Getty Images)

As nationwide coach, Luis Enrique tried to make up for the constraints of his gamers by making every particular person simply a cog in his machine. His Spain facet have been very unpredictable – once they clicked they might beat anyone, and actually hammer an inferior facet. When the machine malfunctioned they struggled to interrupt down opponents who sat deep, and have been weak to counter-attacks, however they did have a clear plan.

Lots of individuals didn’t like that plan, particularly in Madrid, however his gamers believed in it, proper as much as their World Cup exit in Qatar.

De la Fuente desires to offer extra freedom and authority to his gamers. That makes for good sound bites welcomed by Spanish pundits, however the coach is finally chargeable for the group’s tactical method. Steve Clark’s Scotland seemed a way more cohesive and properly organised group on Tuesday, with a a lot clearer concept about what they needed to do on and off the ball. Scotland’s xG determine of 0.88 was not enormous, but it surely was greater than Spain (0.79) managed.

Spain’s new coach was understandably on the defensive throughout his post-match press convention in Hampden.

“I don’t know in case you are evaluating with the previous, however that is a new period,” he stated. “I need the gamers to recognise my concepts, that’s what considerations me. There have been particulars which I recognised, which didn’t win us the sport right now, however we had conditions the place we might have modified the sport. For certain the followers won’t be joyful, however my accountability is to persuade the gamers that the work we’re doing is optimistic for the long run.”

De la Fuente stored repeating this message about having seen how the gamers have been choosing up his concept of the sport. It had not been so clear to others watching, so he was requested if he might clarify it.

“To play with the depth we had, with wingers, crosses, search for pictures, possibilities to interrupt into house,” he stated. “I noticed that occuring typically – we had crosses, set-pieces, pictures, however we simply lacked ending them. But that’s what we had been engaged on through the week, and I’m certain that is the trail, and we’ll polish these particulars and carry out higher. The targets will come, for certain.”

It was not probably the most convincing response, but additionally De la Fuente needed to give a message to his gamers that he believed in them, and desires to maintain them believing in him. In his defence, he was lacking each Pedri and Dani Olmo, in all probability his two most reliably incisive midfielders, and had additionally rotated out one other younger Barca DNA participant in Gavi. The group can be clearly lacking now retired former captain Sergio Busquets, with Man City’s Rodri but to actually carry his Manchester City type and authority to worldwide stage.

Tuesday’s efficiency was nonetheless fairly startling to see, and additionally a reminder of how far Spain has slipped from its place a decade in the past as Europe’s premier soccer superpower. Real Madrid are the one La Liga group left in the Champions League, after Barcelona, Atletico and Sevilla all fell in the group phases. Only Sevilla are actually left in the Europa League, the place they face Manchester United in a few weeks, amid a relegation battle domestically. Villarreal have been knocked out of the UEFA Conference League by Anderlecht final week.

Earlier on Tuesday we noticed one more chapter in the political infighting which frequently erupts throughout the Spanish soccer administration. The Spanish Players Union (AFE) called on federation president Luis Rubiales to resign, as they are saying they’ve proof of his “mafioso” behaviour of “intimidation” and “coercion” to disrupt the unions actions. The federation say that the press report AFE are basing this on is mistaken.

This at the identical time that Barcelona have been accused of paying hundreds of thousands of euros to former referee Javier Negreira, whereas Barca and Madrid stay in a enormous struggle with La Liga and UEFA over their European Super League plan. La Liga president Tebas can be a sworn enemy of his federation chief Rubiales.

It is all a lengthy, great distance from the golden period when La Roja have been admired and imitated all through world soccer. Such a complete defeat in Scotland ought to actually be a get up name for De la Fuente, Rubiales, Tebas and everybody else, and a realisation that the issues are actually mounting in Spanish soccer.

(Top photograph by Robbie Jay Barratt – AMA/Getty Images)