Spain suffered a shock defeat to Japan on Thursday night and ironically had the eliminated Germany to thank that it did not cost them their World Cup place. La Roja are through to the Round of 16 against Morocco, but will carry with them extra baggage of concern with them after a significant fright.
Spain were being eulogised by many at half-time for their supreme control of the match, as they went into the break a goal to the good, before succumbing 2-1 in the end. Speaking to Marca after the match, Spain manager Luis Enrique explained that he had warned his players of the danger that awaited them.
“In football there are no good nor bad sides. In football there is merit and I’m not happy at all. I wanted to be first and win. Japan overcame us. We had started well, scoring and without suffering dangerous situations. At halftime we had already said to be careful with Japan and look, as soon as we started we went into collapse mode. I have nothing to celebrate, I’m not happy at all. If Japan had needed two more, they score them.”
“At 2-1 we tried everything. There I have no complaint. How do I manage that collapse mode, trying to stop the game in another way. Football is inexplicable, explain now that Japan have dominated you for 10 minutes and that you have lost”.
Even if Luis Enrique was satisfied with the reaction, it will no doubt be a concern that the first time Spain had gone behind in the tournament, Japan were able to hold off La Roja without too much trouble.
Asked how he would now look forward to the Morocco game, Luis Enrique was keen to first emphasize the mental aspect.
“We have to recover emotionally. We’re playing against the surprise of the World Cup, we have to prepare as much as possible, because there will be 16 teams left and we have to improve. It’s going to be very difficult.”
Spain have a day extra from many sides in the World Cup to recover from this defeat, before they face Morocco on Tuesday at 16:00 CEST. Many have speculated that their path to the final might actually be easier on this side of the draw, but Morocco will no doubt make life difficult for them. With the two countries within sight of each other across the Gibraltar Strait, it is a cross-continental derby.