SEVILLE, Spain (AP) — This time, not even Luis Enrique was able to hide his discontentment with Spain’s most recent setback.
The coach is usually the first to come out looking at the positives and defending his squad after a disappointing result. But the 1-1 draw with Poland on Saturday left him without much to cling to.
The team’s second consecutive draw left Spain facing the embarrassing prospect of not making it past the group stage at the European Championship, even while playing its matches at home and with up to three teams potentially advancing from the group.
Spain is sitting in third place with two points in Group E, one point behind second-place Slovakia and two behind leader Sweden. Poland is last with one point. A win over Slovakia on Wednesday will secure Spain a spot in the next round, but a draw will leave “La Roja” depending on other results, and with few realistic chances of advancing.
“I really want to watch the game again so I can analyze it better. The first impressions weren’t the best, obviously,” Luis Enrique said. “Maybe we played better than they did, but not better enough to win the match. We tried hard, but not with a lot of clarity.”
Luis Enrique said the attitude of his players was the only thing he was really happy with, while pretty much everything else didn’t go the way he wanted.
He had a lot more praise for his team after the scoreless draw against Sweden, when Spain created a slew of chances but failed to capitalize on them. He had said another good performance like that would have been enough against Poland, but his team struggled more on Saturday even though it still had enough chances to win the match, including a missed penalty kick by Gerard Moreno that could have given Spain a 2-1 lead in the second half.
Moreno was the only change to the lineup from the match against Sweden, coming after his superb season with Villarreal. Luis Enrique later added more forwards during the game — including Ferran Torres and Pablo Sarabia — but it wasn’t enough.
“I wish the changes would have helped us a bit more,” he said.
Álvaro Morata ended his scoring drought by finding the net in the 25th minute, but the Juventus striker disappointed again with another big miss off the rebound of Moreno’s missed penalty. Morata had the open net in front of him but sent his shot wide, drawing more ire from the crowd which earlier had supported him.
Poland equalized in one its few chances in attack, with Robert Lewandowski scoring with a header in the 54th minute.
“We are upset,” Spain captain Jordi Alba said. “We all tried hard. We are not being able to win the matches.”
Luis Enrique didn’t seem to have a clear idea of his next moves ahead of the decisive match against Slovakia, which again will be played on the less-than-perfect field conditions at La Cartuja Stadium in Seville.
A draw or a loss would leave Spain unable to finish better than third in the group, and it would depend on other results to advance as one of the four best third-place finishers. A draw and a Poland victory over Sweden would automatically eliminate Spain.
“As a coach, I‘ve always had to solve many problems,” Luis Enrique said. “What we have to do is to improve and start winning matches. Hopefully we will be up to the task.”
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