Six months before the World Cup in Qatar, defensive vulnerability remains Spain’s great Achilles’ heel. Associated with the need to take risks that Luis Enrique’s daring proposal entails, the weakness shown at the Sinobo Stadium in Prague was worrying due to the clairvoyance with which Czech midfielders and attackers executed their plan on the counterattacks. The first goal was a sample of it. Beyond the fact that Carvajal interpreted the moment of throwing the offside at the wrong time, it was striking that it was two strikers who immediately broke behind Eric García and Íñigo Martínez. Already in the first play, Czechia had forced a corner with a ball behind Marcos Alonso. It was a premeditated plan by the Czech coach, Jaroslav Silhavy, who showed signs of having carefully studied how to hurt Spain. “The tactic was successful, even if there are those who don’t like to play defensively. It was sensational, my players worked on it”, boasted the Czech coach. “We knew that we were going to play a lot without the ball, but also that we would have chances to counterattack because the coach insisted on it”, confessed Pesek, scorer of the first goal for the local team.
Vaclik, Brabec, Ales Mateju, David Zima, Michal Sadilek, Jaroslav Zeleny (Jankto, min. 23), Coufal, Tomas Soucek, Pesek (Adam Hlozek, min. 58), Ondrej Lingr and Jan Kuchta
Unai Simón, Eric Garcia, Íñigo Martínez, Dani Carvajal, Marcos Alonso, Rodrigo (Busquets, min. 60), Gavi, Koke (Marcos Llorente, min. 71), Sarabia (Ferrán Torres, min. 45), De Tomás (Morata , min. 60) and Dani Olmo (Marco Asensio, min. 60)
goals 1-0 min. 3: Pesek. 1-1 min. 47: Gavi. 2-1 min. 65: Jan Kuchta. 2-2 min. 89: Inigo Martinez.
Yellow cards Rodrigo (min. 57) and Coufal (min. 90)
The word of mouth of the great weak point of the Red has spread among the rivals. It is a constant that any opponent is capable of generating clear chances for him. “In two balls to the back that they have had, they have made us the goals. You have to control these situations because with little they do us a lot”, warned midfielder Rodrigo Hernández at the end of the match. The lack of forcefulness in the own area and also in that of the rival has institutionalized a sentence that accompanies this Spain of Luis Enrique and that he himself admits: “We can win or lose with anyone”.
The informer of the defensive errors already jumped out at the coach from Gijón in the Seville match against Portugal (1-1). His gestures and his shouts at the ease of the Portuguese attackers to break behind the Spanish full-backs and central defenders were significant. “I went crazy every time that happened,” says a witness who witnessed the game a few meters from the Spanish coach.
The sequence of the two goals from the Czech Republic and another clear chance that Kuchta had, scorer of the second goal, responded to the same collective pattern, over and above Carvajal’s error in throwing the first goal offside and Eric García in the second for the same reason, in addition to being poorly placed. The Barcelona center-back is being questioned a lot because he appears in the photo of the two goals, but it is one of Luis Enrique’s big bets. The coach from Gijón usually appeals to his good performances in the two most relevant commitments of Spain in the last year, the semifinal of the European Championship against Italy and the final of the last edition of the League of Nations against France. In both games, Eric García scored at a high level.
Luis Enrique did not focus the two goals conceded on individual errors, but rather on the lack of coordination when executing the pressure. “There have been imbalances when pressing. That has led to the entry of second-line players. Not only do you have to do surveillance, but tilt”, explained Luis Enrique in the press room of the Sinobo Stadium. Both goals were preceded by poor turnovers that were not corrected by pressure after loss. This made it possible for the Czech counterattack throwers to drive and make the final pass without opposition. “The defense of Spain begins at number 9, at the ends, the interiors… that’s a defense and from minute one the rival has generated imbalances for us,” Luis Enrique insisted in his analysis.
The pressure is essential to maintain the daring script of the Spanish coach. Against Portugal he was also seen irritated for this same reason. The question is to know if that misinterpretation of his plan was the result of physical wear due to the height of the season we are in or it is beginning to be an endemic evil.