In the Parc des Bastions in Geneva, the giant chessboards paved to the ground are surrounded by clever local players who crush in a few moves the daring tourists who dare to drag the heavy pieces. Some 200 meters away, on the banks of a bend in the Rhône, the Spanish team quietly occupies the luxurious Mandarin hotel. The draws against Portugal (1-1) and the Czech Republic (2-2) have made this Thursday’s duel against Switzerland (20.45, TVE1) transcendental to maintain the chances of reaching first place in the group that gives access to the end to four.
Criticism of the defensive system has focused on Eric García, which has uncovered the sense of clan with which Luis Enrique handles himself, a legacy of his admiration for Javier Clemente. “The only coach I would have thrown myself off a bridge for”, Luis Enrique confessed in a recent interview with the Federation media.
The coach from Gijón made a staunch defense of the Barça defender. “Eric is a spectacular player and as long as he maintains that level and I am the coach, he will continue to come to the national team. If he saw two or three top guys in his position he knows he wouldn’t call him, but I don’t see them. There are players who make journalists and fans very horny, and Eric is one of them”, defended the Spanish coach. “I have given a very sincere explanation, perhaps too much, a puddle per day, the water by the knee and it’s over,” settled the technician when he received a second question from Eric García. Luis Enrique’s analysis of the defensive errors committed against the Czechs focused on forwards and midfielders, who did not execute the pressure well after losing. “Perhaps individually we are not very good, but collectively yes, and that is the game in which we press the worst after losing the ball”, explained the coach. The clan protection of the group also emerged from the mouth of the coach. “I am more tired than they are, that at the height of the season we are in, what I have found has been a total predisposition for work. It is an easy group to get along with, commendable a thousand times a thousand”.
Spain now occupies third place in the group with two points, two less than Portugal and the Czech Republic. When this cycle of four matches ends on Sunday in Malaga, against the Czechs, there will be two remaining to be played in September, against Switzerland, in Zaragoza, and Portugal, in Braga. Luis Enrique uses as a fuse for the group the challenge of being the first team to qualify for the second consecutive time for the final four of the League of Nations, which with this marks its third edition. “This competition is attractive and for the players even more so if we reach September with the chance to play those two games with the chance of being first”, Luis Enrique concluded.