“I feel like it’s like a bottle of cava that’s about to be uncorked,” said Luis Enrique. “As soon as we remove that plug, as soon as we produce a full performance and get the kind of victory that gives us confidence, our best version will come out. “
Much of it turned out to be prophetic. Spain sank, put in a convincing – if not complete – performance and regained their confidence.
It seemed like a turning point, although a late rebound in Sweden’s 3-2 win over Poland saw them deprived of first place in the group. That doesn’t seem too important, given that it would have been Croatia rather than the Czech Republic – both sides having drawn 1-1 in the group stage – but both paths involve a potential encounter with one of the French. , Germany or Portugal in the quarter-finals.
Spain will now feel like they have a better chance against one of them as they ultimately took some risks. There was always a feeling that there was something even in those first two games of Purgatory. Opportunities were also created in these matches. Luis Enrique is perhaps also prophetic there. We could well see the best version of Spain.
Whether that better version is good enough to earn it is another issue. They always seem to be missing something. They could well point to the very last Euros, when Portugal went all the way after a bad start – and that with Eder finishing the tournament in the lead.
They took advantage here of the worst version of Slovakia, and of poor Martin Dubravka. This is when the cava was opened. While Spain avoided disaster, Slovakia became a calamity. It was as if they had lost their will as well as their path as they gave up the chance to go third with every goal they gave up. It is remarkable that they finish ahead of Poland after such a poor performance. They won’t bother the last 16, but Spain will. That’s when the tournament really starts, and maybe that’s when Spain starts now that they’ve learned how to finish again.
It will be all the more satisfying for Luis Enrique as there was an important period where it looked like it was going to be another parody of a performance, and that was even after the first goal.
Morata showed his usual admirable persistence of play, but Luis Enrique did not persist with him. In the 66th minute, with Spain at ease, he brought Morata out for Torres. It seemed like a surprise as there were goals for his team – and the striker. So it’s proven. At once. In less than 60 seconds, Torres received that literal uproar to bring the score to 4-0. That’s how easy the game had become. Spain managed to make their way a few inches from Slovakia’s goal.
They still needed the fortune that had abandoned them until Morata’s failure to free them. Dubravka handed it over to them. During the half hour he inexplicably slapped a ball falling into his own net. It is possible that he was disoriented by the glow of the strong Seville sun. Either way, it meant Spain was finally seeing the light.
The cork was out. The goals started pouring in.
Morata might even have started to feel sympathy for Dubravka. The goalkeeper looked disoriented again before half-time, allowing Gerard Moreno to cross for Aymeric Laporte to head for the corner.
Slovakia has started to collapse. Spain was no longer faced with one of those crowded defenses. There were holes everywhere. Jordi Alba put another ball through one for Pablo Sarabia to finish, before Sarabia did the same for Torres for what could have been Morata’s goal.
Spain was just happy to take them as they came. Slovakia offered them as Juraj Kucka kicked the ball into his own goal.
It was then that news started to arrive from St. Petersburg that Poland were coming back from 2-0. Robert Lewandowski, the forward whose goal had caused such uncertainty for Spain in the previous game, now gave them clarity. He gave them first place.
They were ultimately unable to take first place. It doesn’t seem to matter too much. Spain were too preoccupied with their own performance and will feel they can face anyone again. Maybe even better sides will suit them, as they open up. This is another argument put forward by Luis Enrique.
He’s already had a big call.