Former Spain Coach Javier Clemente regards Andres Iniesta as a ‘phenomenon’ and believes La Roja can go far in Euro 2016 despite their Italy fixture.
Spain were paired with the Azzurri as a result of dropping to second in Group D as they lost their final fixture to Croatia, Clemente explaining to AS that the winning goal, scored on the counter-attack by Ivan Perisic, was in some ways just one of those things.
“It can happen to anyone, including my teams. It really was an unusual goal for an experienced team to concede. It was hot, the team had symptoms of fatigue and the Croats were fresher,” he pointed out.
“I think if Spain had to go out to win the match they would have won. But when a draw will do, sometimes you neither attack nor defend. They took advantage of the attacking nature of the national team.
“It is more complicated now but it’s not impossible. Spain played very well against Turkey, but Turkey is a fiesta. Against Croatia there was also a very good moment in the first half hour but then they let in two goals in the last minute of each half and that’s what needs to be analysed. Now we’re entering a phase in which everyone competes.
“Now you have to play at the highest level. If you lack a little bit of concentration, intensity and physical strength, you’re out. We can win. If Spain give their best I’m sure they’ll continue to go through the rounds. We remain among the favourites.
“Changes? That’s for Vicente del Bosque. He knows better than us how the team is. He’s got five days to check the fitness and mood of each player. Then he decides. But I wouldn’t expect many changes. The team has played three games, two-and-a-half of them they’ve done well.”
Iniesta has been the most lauded of Spain’s players thus far in the competition, and Clemente joined in the chorus championing the Barcelona midfielder.
“Would I have picked him? Of course, but he’s a phenomenon. He’s the player with the most influence on the national team, especially near the attack. Croatia did well to get him out of that area of influence,” he noted.
“They pressured him and forced him to gradually go deeper. So from the first half hour, when they did that, we had more problems. I would have Iniesta and nine more. We would just play with 10.
“Did I play like Iniesta? I think I ran more. I was more of a runner with less quality. Iniesta is the best player of individual quality I have ever seen.”