Enrique issues rivals challenge

Warren Ashurst
June 29th 2021, 4:11 pm
Last Updated 3 years ago
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After securing their place in the quarter-finals, Spain boss Luis Enrique has claimed any team that wants to beat his side at Euro 2020 will have to “play very well”.

La Roja were given a scare in their last-16 showdown with Croatia on Monday, as they squandered a two-goal advantage in the last five minutes to see the game finish level at 3-3 at full-time.

Spain went on to secure a 5-3 victory, with Alvaro Morata and Mikel Oyarzabal both finding the back of the net in extra-time to save the Spanish the anguish of a penalty shootout.

Enrique’s side were cruising at 3-1 with just five minutes of regular time, and substituted players like midfielder Koke were seen celebrating coming off the field.

Croatia had different ideas as Mislav Orsic and Mario Pasalic scored in a dramatic fashion to take the game into extra-time.

Spain responded to the pressure well, and can now look forward to facing Switzerland in the quarter-finals, after the Swiss earned their own thrilling victory over pre-tournament favourites France on Monday night.

Enrique admitted after the game that his side might have thought the result was a formality at 3-1 but has warned the other nations left in the competition that Spain will be tough to be bested this summer.

“It is true that our biggest mistake has been to think that we had it done with 3-1,” he told reporters. “We are very grateful to the support of the people, and it has been a pleasure to see red jerseys in the stands.

“The team has fought, they have believed and the game leaves us many positive things. This national team has a goal and plays football well.

“Whoever wants to beat us is going to have to run a lot and play very well.”

Spain are unlikely to have it all their own way when they go head to head against Switzerland at the Krestovsky Stadium in St Petersburg on Friday evening.

The Swiss showed no fear as they took on reigning world champions France, and will see weaknesses in the Spain side to exploit.

Enrique’s side took a while to go through the gears in the group stages, after playing out draws with both Sweden and Poland in their opening two games.

A 5-0 hammering of Slovakia was more like the Spain of old, and now La Roja have scored 10 goals in their last two games, even if extra-time was required last time out.

Meanwhile, Enrique did give special mention to striker Morata, who has struggled in front of goal at the tournament this summer.

Having come in for criticism and even going through the ordeal of death threats, Enrique was delighted for the forward to get on the scoresheet with a vital goal against Croatia.

“I don’t want to see another Alvaro, this is the Alvaro that amazes me,” Enrique said. “He has a lot of personality, he endures situations that none of you would like to endure. I have seen a commendable attitude. I’m very happy for him.”

Warren Ashurst

Warren has been employed as a sport journalist for over two decades and as well as years of written experience, has also worked in other areas of the media including radio and television. Football has always been his number one passion and has covered both domestic and international level.