Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Spain seek Nations League triumph to consolidate De la Fuente as coach

The Spanish national team will look to claim their first UEFA Nations League title when they play Croatia in Rotterdam on Sunday.

The Spanish booked a consecutive appearance in the final with an impressive 2-1 win against Italy on Thursday, with a display of controlled football in midfield and pace in attack.

Substitute Joselu was in the right place at the right time to win the game and the striker, who is being linked with a possible return to Real Madrid from Espanyol, has a chance of being in Sunday’s starting 11.

Thursday’s win lifted some of the pressure off Spain’s coach, Luis de la Fuente after defeat in Scotland in March, with the Spanish sports paper Diario As reporting that defeat to the Italians would have seen the former Under-21 coach sacked and replaced by former Rayo Vallecano boss, Andoni Iraola, a Xinhua report said.

While that seems harsh on a man who has only been in the job for three games, no doubt winning the Nations League would give De la Fuente plenty of credit for the foreseeable future, although it will not be easy against the Croatians.

Croatia who finished third in last year’s World Cup showed that was no fluke with an impressive 2-1 win over hosts, the Netherlands on Wednesday and despite the game going to extra time, they have had 24 more hours to recover than the Spanish.

That means De la Fuente will probably make some changes to his starting 11, despite Thursday’s impressive display, with Marco Asensio in for Rodrigo Moreno in the attack.

Rodrigo Hernandez was again impressive in central midfield alongside Mikel Merino and if both are fit, they will probably start, while despite Robin la Normand being unlucky to concede a penalty for handball on his debut, he was good in the air and formed a good understanding with Aymeric Laporte in Spain’s all-French central defense.

Unai Simon pulled off a couple of reflexes saves to justify his return in goal, while veteran full-backs Jordi Alba and Jesus Navas were also solid, with the desire for fresh legs, the only reason for De la Fuente to consider bringing back Dani Carvajal or handing a debut to new Real Madrid signing, Fran Garcia.

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