Spain coach Luis Enrique has a month to sort out the nation’s goalscoring problems if they are to reach the Nations League Final Four. That was the verdict on Wednesday after the team managed just one goal in three games in this international break.
“Without goals we are going nowhere,” was the Marca headline the morning after a disappointing 1-0 defeat to Ukraine in Kiev.
“Lack of goals condemn Spain,” was the Diario AS headline. One of their columnists declared: “Thanks Switzerland” in recognition of the Swiss draw with Germany which kept Spain top of Group A4 despite the slip.
“We deserved to win,” said Luis Enrique after the game. “The ball just did not want to go in but we were infinitely superior to them and should have won by more than one goal.”
That will do nothing to ease concerns over the team’s chances of winning a tournament any time soon.
The Spain coach has already spoken openly about Spain’s lack of an out-and-out centre-forward and seeing Spain back in Kiev where they won the 2012 Euros 4-0 against Italy, also playing without a typical number nine, brought back memories of the last time they dominated world football.
They were at the height of their powers during that tournament scoring 12 goals and conceding just one.
Coach Vicente del Bosque called the victory over Italy in the final the best game of his era and when the team lost against Brazil in a Confederations Cup match a year later it brought to an end a run of 29 games without losing.
The Wednesday defeat suggested Luis Enrique’s current group will not reach the same heights as that team and must look to find a goalscoring specialist from somewhere to help them resolve games they dominate.
Where the solutions come from, will now be debated by Spanish football fans over the next four weeks.
One thing has become increasingly clear in the last three games: Luis Enrique will not be afraid to experiment.
Tuesday’s game was his 15th in charge of team selection and it was also the 15th different eleven he had picked.
In giving debuts to Adama Traore and Jose Campana over the course of this international break he has now used 52 players.
Real Madrid’s veteran defender Sergio Ramos has played 14 of the 15 to date but it is hard to find anyone else who has been consistently first-choice in their position.
The brightest thing about the three matches – Spain drew 0-0 with Portugal in a friendly and beat Switzerland 1-0 before the Ukraine loss – is that for the most part the football has been good.
“Some games are more difficult than others and we have to improve certain things but playing this way with a little more accuracy in front of goal we can aspire to big things,” said left-back Sergio Reguilon. “We have to be more ruthless in front of goal.”
Spain’s next two games are Nations League fixtures away to Switzerland on November 14 and home to Germany three days later.
The leading Spanish have seven points in top-flight Group A4 with Germany and Ukraine each on six and Switzerland last on two.