Spain defeated Portugal 1-0 on Tuesday night in Braga, securing top spot in their Nations League group and a place in the final four of the competition next summer. After questions were raised following defeat against Switzerland on Saturday, Spain have once again done things the hard way and Luis Enrique looks vindicated.
Portugal manager Fernando Santos saw enough from their Iberian neighbours to put La Roja in competition to win the World Cup, although he partly blamed the defeat on their retreat in the second half.
However Luis Enrique was of the opinion that it was part of Spain’s gameplan. Speaking during his press conference after the match, the former Barcelona and Real Madrid player explained to Diario AS how he set his team up.
“Balance is what rules in football. We played a first half in which I insisted on us having the ball. I think we made 400 and a bit passes. The first half it is necessary to show that the ball will be ours and in the second we were going to have a chance.”
He was also keen to highlight the work of starting XI as well as the substitutes, who made the difference towards the end.
“Nico, Pedri, Gavi… You win with eleven [players]. To be able to come on to find tired opposition full-backs, they have to play against Ferran from the start.”
“The objective was to take the ball off Portugal. We forgot to add depth in the first half, but the fault is mine. In the second half we fixed it. The players who came off the bench were decisive, but the physical wear from Portugal is the achievement of those who started.”
There has been relatively little discussion surrounding the increase in the number of substitutions allowed in football, but few appear to be more interested in using it than the Spain manager. Luis Enrique used all five of his changes against Portugal and the change between the team that finished the match and that which started it in terms of characteristics was notable.