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Friday November 16 2018
What we learned from Croatia-Spain

Spain suffered a dramatic defeat to Croatia on Thursday, in a game which showcased both the best and worst of La Roja, writes Daryl Hammond.

A chance for Kepa?

A year of shaky performances will not completely erase the years David de Gea has built up as a World Class shot-stopper. But performances for club and country have dipped noticeably in the past twelve months for club and country, particularly in the red of Spain.

He started the game well, stopping Ivan Perisic early, and at 2-1 he did make an important one-on-one save against Ante Rebic to stop the game getting away from La Roja. But palming a shot out for Tin Jedvaj to tap in the 90th minute winner will leave a sour taste in the mouth. His lack of exceptional performances may open the door for someone like Kepa Arrizabalaga to earn more caps, starting with Bosnia Herzegovina on Sunday.

But he’s not helped by his defence

Spain at their best are an offensive juggernaut. But that type of football often lends itself to defensive stability. During World Cup qualification they kept seven clean sheets in 10 games, conceding three goals. In their four Nations League games they have conceded six goals, of which five have being shipped in the last two games. The most notable example of their malaise came from Croatia’s second goal, when despite marking man-for-man at the corner, Jedvaj was able to head in at the far post unimpeded.

Ramos the goal machine

While Spain were shambolic at the back, Sergio Ramos has done his bit at the other end of the pitch. His penalty was his fourth goal in as many games for Spain and his ninth of the season in all competitions. And there will surely be many more Panenka penalties to come.

A good night for Real Madrid

Spain may have suffered, but Real Madrid and their players on show at least had something to show for it. Isco, apparently deemed unfit by new Los Blancos boss Santiago Solari, showed few signs of sluggishness in setting up club teammate Dani Ceballos for Spain’s first goal. He always turns up for Spain.

Equally Luka Modric showed some of the spark that has got him treading among the front-runners for the Ballon d’Or. His self-admittedly lethargic performances at club level differ greatly when wearing the red and white of Croatia. We saw glimpses of the World Cup Modric, particularly in his creation of Croatia’s second goal, outfoxing two defenders before whipping in a cross for Jedvaj.

Who needs the Nations League anyway?

Spain apparently. Despite many doubts about the true competitive nature of this newly-formed competition, there is no doubt both teams wanted to win. No faking the joy of Jedvaj and his teammates when they grabbed a late winner. Spain and Coach Luis Enrique wanted to do well in this competition. Unfortunately, it is out of Spain’s hands. They will be praying for a stalemate at Wembley on Sunday, or they will miss out on qualification.

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