Spain's resurgence under Luis Enrique leaves a painful sense of 'what if?'

By On September 13, 2018

Spain's resurgence under Luis Enrique leaves a painful sense of 'what if?'

For many in the Spain squad, the 6-0 victory over Croatia in the Uefa Nations League on Tuesday was not just a statement victory, but actually the best they felt they had performed in years. This, according to those who have been in the camp for years, was up there with anything from the 2008-12 era. That really isn’t far-fetched given the fantastic excess of the scoreline and the play.

It is, however, a far cry from what everyone saw in Russia.

There was no pointless possession, no passing paralysis, no hesitation, no doubt. There was only purpose, self-expression and certainty â€" albeit all emboldened with real confidence.

England vs Spain - player ratings

22 show all England vs Spain - player ratings

1/22 Jordan Pickford - 6 out of 10

Could do little about the two goals scored in the first half and wasn’t r equired to do much more after that. AFP/Getty Images

2/22 Joe Gomez - 5

Looked a little troubled to begin with but came into his own. AFP/Getty Images

3/22 John Stones - 6

Made a great tackle in the second half to stop Rodrigo breaking free but got booked for it, otherwise did a decent job in the centre of the defence. REUTERS

4/22 Harry Maguire - 6

Controlled at the back in possession even under pressure from the Spani sh strikers. Getty Images

5/22 Jordan Henderson - 5

Got sucked away from the near post for Spain’s second goal which allowed Rodrigo to find the gap and score. REUTERS

6/22 Kieran Trippier - 6

Brought down Alonso in a needless diving challenge which led to the second Spanish goal, went forward well but didn’t deliver as well as we’d have liked. AFP/Getty Images

7/22 Jesse Lingard - 6

Lit the game up for England whe n he combined with Alli on the attack but saw too little of the ball and had to cover too much when defending. Getty Images

8/22 Dele Alli - 6

Couldn’t make a lasting impact due to England struggling to get the ball forward. REUTERS

9/22 Luke Shaw - 7

Had a great start to the game, setting up Rashford for the opener but gave Carvajal too much room in defence leading to the equaliser for Spain, he recovered after this mishap and performed well. PA

10/22 Marcus Rash ford - 8

Scored the opener and could have had a second with a fiercer header in the first half. REUTERS

11/22 Harry Kane - 6

Sent Rashford through on goal in the second half and he held the ball up and turned well but he didn’t see enough of it to make a proper impact. Spain AP

12/22 David De Gea - 7 out of 10

Made a fantastic save to deny Rashford equalising and keep Spain in front. REUTERS

13/22 Dani Carvajal - 8

Was great all night, he put pressure on Shaw and Maguire down the left and tracked back superbly. AFP/Getty Images

14/22 Nacho Fernandez - 6

Steadfast in defence following England’s first, barely gave England a chance. Getty Images

15/22 Sergio Ramos - 6

Got booed by the English fans but delivered quality long balls and looked confident in defence. AP

16/22 Marcos Alonso - 6

W as strong in mid-field and won a few free kicks for Spain in dangerous areas including the one which led to their second goal. Getty

17/22 Thiago Alcantara - 7

Whipped in the low cross from out wide, finding Rodrigo with perfection. EPA

18/22 Sergio Busquets - 7

Did what he does, commanded the mid-field playing through he wide men and creating space with ease. REUTERS

19/22 Saul Niguez - 8

Scored the equaliser for Spain with a solid shot in a tricky situation, perfectly placing the ball past Pickford. AP

20/22 Rodrigo Moreno - 9

Played a perfect pass into Saul to get the equaliser for Spain before putting them in front after meeting Thiago’s free kick. The best player on the pitch. AP

21/22 Iago Aspas - 6

Linked very well with Rodrigo up front and wasn’t afraid to take the challenge to England and shoot from anywhere on the pitch. REUTERS

22/22 Isco - 6

Had free roam on the pitch and made use of it, he ran through the centre, down the left, over on the right basically he was everywhere a nightmare to defend against. AFP/Getty Images

1/22 Jordan Pickford - 6 out of 10

Could do little about the two goals scored in the first half and wasn’t required to do much more after that. AFP/Getty Images

2/22 Joe Gomez - 5

Looked a little troubled to begin with but came into his own. AFP/Getty Images

3/2 2 John Stones - 6

Made a great tackle in the second half to stop Rodrigo breaking free but got booked for it, otherwise did a decent job in the centre of the defence. REUTERS

4/22 Harry Maguire - 6

Controlled at the back in possession even under pressure from the Spanish strikers. Getty Images

5/22 Jordan Henderson - 5

Got sucked away from the near post for Spain’s second goal which allowed Rodrigo to find the gap and score. REUTERS

6/22 Kieran Trippier - 6

Brought down Alonso in a needless diving challenge which led to the second Spanish goal, went forward well but didn’t deliver as well as we’d have liked. AFP/Getty Images

7/22 Jesse Lingard - 6

Lit the game up for England when he combined with Alli on the attack but saw too little of the ball and had to cover too much when defending. Getty Images

8/22 Dele Alli - 6

Couldn’t make a lasting impact due to England struggling to get the ball forward. REUTERS

9/22 Luke Shaw - 7

Had a great start to the game, setting up Rashford for the opener but gave Carvajal too much room in defence leading to the equaliser for Spain, he recovered after this mishap and performed well. PA

10/22 Marcus Rashford - 8

Scored the opener and could have had a second with a fiercer header in the first half. REUTERS

11/22 Harry Kane - 6

Sent Rashford through on goal in the second half and he held the ball up and turned well but he didn’t see enough of it to mak e a proper impact. Spain AP

12/22 David De Gea - 7 out of 10

Made a fantastic save to deny Rashford equalising and keep Spain in front. REUTERS

13/22 Dani Carvajal - 8

Was great all night, he put pressure on Shaw and Maguire down the left and tracked back superbly. AFP/Getty Images

14/22 Nacho Fernandez - 6

Steadfast in defence following England’s first, barely gave England a chance. Getty Images

15/22 Sergio Ramos - 6

Got booed by the English fans but delivered quality long balls and looked confident in defence. AP

16/22 Marcos Alonso - 6

Was strong in mid-field and won a few free kicks for Spain in dangerous areas including the one which led to their second goal. Getty

17/22 Thiago Alcantara - 7

Whipped in the low cross from out wide, finding Rodrigo with perfection. EPA

18/22 Sergio Busquets - 7

Did what he does, commanded the mid-field playing through he wide men and creating space with ease. REUTERS

19/22 Saul Niguez - 8

Scored the equaliser for Spain with a solid shot in a tricky situation, perfectly placing the ball past Pickford. AP

20/22 Rodrigo Moreno - 9

Played a perfect pass into Saul to get the equaliser for Spain before putting them in front after meeting Thiago’s free kick. The best player on the pitch. AP

21/22 Iago Aspas - 6

Linked very well with Rodrigo up front and wasn’t afraid to take the challenge to England and shoot from anywhere on the pitch. REUTERS

22/22 Isco - 6

Had free roam on the pitch and made use of it, he ran through the centre, down the left, over on the right basically he was everywhere a nightmare to defend against. AFP/Getty Images

The first goal was a case in point, and the best: A glorious sweeping move that saw two passes of such indulgence and theatricality that you only usua lly see them in training games. They were deployed to thrustful purpose, as Saul Niguez’s powerful header was provided by Dani Carvajal’s divine outside-of-the-foot pass.

The point is Spain were so confident in their ability there was no constraint or containment about this. They were trying what felt natural, and now feel in triumphant form.

How quickly things have changed. That, however, is where there still might be an element of frustration.

Luis Enrique has managed this mental transformation â€" and that is what it really amounts to â€" in very short time, having had less than a week with the squad, and it is impossible not to wonder ‘what if?’.

(Getty)

This was obviously a glimpse of what might have been possible in Russia had Julen Lopetegui stayed on given how Spain were playing under him, and while the Real Madrid manager’s departure has now been debated to death, his possible replacements at the time have not.

Luis Enrique was one of them.

The federation went with Fernando Hierro, and there has been a sense that he couldn’t do much in an extreme situation, and was merely subject to a wider malaise after Lopetegui’s departure.

But is that really true? Hierro is not really a coach, and that came across. His substitutions reflect ed a manager who hesitated an awful lot, and was unsure of himself, and his uncertainty filtered through to the team on the pitch.

That would not have been the case with Luis Enrique. He has flaws, but hesitation is not one of them.

His sense of certainty might have been perfect for what was a wholly imperfect situation. He might have been able to do something with that squad, even with such limited and difficult time, given what the last few days have shown.

It is all the more frustrating for Spain because they look at a peak, but are now as far away from the peak of the game as they can be. These are the first fixtures back from the World Cup, so it is an awful long wait until the next one.

And while the European Championships obviously aren’t to be sniffed at, especially since Spain haven’t got past the last 16 of any competition since Euro 2012, they have won three of those. The one they really want is the World Cup, and all the history it represents.

The last few days have underlined to them that the recent pa st might have been very different, especially since the future now looks so bright again.

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Source: Google News Spain | Netizen 24 Spain

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