Inigo Martinez: “Spain have to win the next game”

Pablo Sarabia’s first-half penalty proved enough to ensure La Roja took all three points against Greece in Athens on Thursday night. Luis Enrique’s side won 1-0 to end the day top of Group B of World Cup Qualifying, leapfrogging Sweden.

Spain will now face Sweden on Sunday night at La Cartuja in Sevilla, in a winner-takes-all fixture. What’s changed following tonight’s results, however, is that Spain only need to draw to top the group and secure automatic qualification for Qatar 2022. Sweden lost 2-0 to Georgia earlier in the evening.

As for the game itself, it was Greece who actually had the ball in the net first. Giorgos Masouras thought he’d fired his country into a 21st-minute lead after coolly beating Unai Simon, only for the linesman to raise his flag and rule it offside.

 

The tie’s decisive moment came just four minutes later. Inigo Martinez was fouled in the box and Sarabia, on loan at Sporting Lisbon from Paris Saint-Germain, stepped up to take it. He made no mistake, going left and sending the goalkeeper the wrong way.

Victory was nothing less than Spain deserved. They controlled 72.6% of the possession and recorded a passing accuracy of 92%, making sure to press high and win the ball back as quickly as possible whenever they lost it. Greece threatened on occasion, but ultimately played with a disappointing lack of ambition. For La Roja, thoughts have now turned to Sweden on Sunday.

 

“It was very important to win today and I think that’s what we always try to do,” Martinez said post-match in comments carried by Marca. “There will be better and worse games but the team has always known how to suffer. It’s a shame we’ve not been able to finish [the game earlier]. These games should be finished off. But now we’re happy and will rest up.

“They’re the kind of games where, if you don’t finish it off, especially in the first half, the other team can end up coming back. Any team can complicate your life. You see many who normally go to the World Cup are failing right now. But we love our team and have full confidence in it.

“Spain have to win the next game. It will be very difficult but we’re playing in front of our own people in our house. I only have some discomfort in my calf [he came off for Cesar Azpilicueta in the second half]. It’s important to know your limit. I decided to come off and another teammate came in and delivered.”

Tags Inigo Martinez La Roja