Spain were on the ropes in the World Cup for three dramatic second-half minutes of their 2-1 defeat to Japan as Costa Rica led Germany for a few heart-stopping minutes before Kai Havertz netted a goal that saved Spain’s World Cup adventure.
Speaking after the game, Spain coach Luis Enrique admitted he was “not as good as I’d like to be” after the narrow escape, “but now I have to think about what happened.”
Spain will now face Morocco in the last 16. “I know it’s hard to be positive after a defeat. But it’s time to look ahead,” he added, reports Xinhua.
The coach insisted Spain had played well in the first half, when they led thanks to Alvaro Morata’s third goal of the tournament, but were stunned as Japan upped the pace after the break.
“It may sound strange, but we played well in the first half, but they came out in the second. It is something we have to correct, but the main thing is that we have qualified,” commented Luis Enrique.
“It’s obvious that we would have liked to qualify by winning this match, but we are in the last 16,” he added.
Although nobody could doubt Spain pressed for a goal that would have seen them finish top of the group until the final whistle, finishing second means they play Morocco, rather than Croatia, in the last-16 and will avoid a possible quarterfinal clash with Brazil.
“In the end, you never know what is best. We wanted to win and we didn’t care about which rivals to avoid,” he insisted.
Meanwhile, Japan coach Hajime Moriyasu said that his side’s 2-1 win over Spain was a moment that would make Asian football proud. The win, which came thanks to goals from Ritsu Doan and Ano Takana at the start of the second half, saw Japan qualify for the last 16 as winners of Group E, and they will now play Croatia.
Japan’s win means they have beaten both Spain and Germany in the group stage.
“For Asia as a whole and Japan as well, our wins over Spain and Germany: two of the top sides in the world, will give us great confidence,” said Moriyasu.
“There are many things we can learn, but Asia can win in the World Stage — Japan can win on the World Stage. I think all of the people in Asia will share our happiness,” he said.
The coach also discussed the halftime turnaround, saying he had been satisfied at halftime as his side trailed 1-0.
“At half time, I told the players that things were going to plan and they had done well. We made two substitutions (Doan and Kaoru Mitoma) and looked to play on the break. We looked to attack more,” he said.
“We persevered and persisted in the first half, and in the second half, we are able to benefit from that effort,” he commented.