La Roja face Italy tomorrow evening at San Siro in Milan in the first semi-final of the Nations League. Belgium take on France the following evening at Juventus Stadium in Turin in the other semi-final, meaning that this edition of the Final Four boasts the reigning World Cup winners and European Championship winners.
France emerged victorious in the former in 2018 in Russia, when they beat Croatia to lift the sport’s most prestigious prize. Italy lifted Euro 2020 just this past summer when they beat England in the final at Wembley Stadium in London. Roberto Mancini’s side got there by beating Luis Enrique’s Spain in the semi-final.
Spain come into the game in a delicate moment following their exploits in the September international break. La Roja beat Georgia and Kosovo with relative ease but crucially fell to a 2-1 defeat at the hands of Sweden, meaning that even though they’re four points clear at the top of their World Cup qualifying group they’re under pressure; Sweden have two games in hand.
To intensify the scrutiny, Luis Enrique has been questioned for what many deem to be a strange squad selection for the Italy game. “I don’t like to talk about the players who haven’t been selected,” he said in comments carried by Marca when asked about the absences of Brahim Diaz, Luis Alberto and Fabian Ruiz. “They’re good and they can return to the national team, but I have to choose according to what I want to do.”
He’s full of enthusiasm to take on the Azzurri. “Italy is a country that I love,” he continued. “I love the food, the coffee, the ice cream. I like the sun, more in the south than in the north. And I like the Italian team, who I think is the team we’re most like.”
The Asturian was less excited about the press. “I don’t read [the press] because I think I know more about football than most and because I have more information than you do,” he said. “There isn’t an opinion that I can read that might interest me. I have nothing to say to the critics [of his squad selection] because I don’t read them, I don’t listen to them. So for me, it’s the same selection as always. I trust my selection.”