The National Team put an end to the final phase of the Nations League with honor, fury and the feeling that it had never been worse than either of its two rivals in the two games played. It did not matter that it was against a European champion who accumulated 37 matches in a row without knowing defeat (Italy) or against the world champion (France). Spain was always a recognizable team, proud of its football and that made the most of their collective and individual resources. The glass ceiling was none other than the quality of its players. That is why the two claws of Karim Benzema and Kylian Mbappé dynamited the plan of the Luis Enrique National Team just after Mikel Oyarzabal would have opened the scoreboard. Before, Spain had already enjoyed opportunities and arrivals, but the lack of greater firepower ended up postponing the goal and giving wings to the Gauls. Spain would pay dearly for it.
After almost a decade stumbling around, the National Team has a defined and fluid style capable of transferring to large tournaments with which to be competitive on an ongoing basis. In other words, can look the most fearsome rival in the eye in its own way and without denaturing itself. All this seasoned with a great tactical work of the coaching staff that offers advantages to its players. Like the tactical disposition that released Azpilicueta and Marcos Alonso to unbalance the French pressure, overcome the first obstacle in the exit of the ball and provided a perfect setting for Ferran Torres against Theo Hernández on the wing. “No one can say that we do not play in the same way in all fields and against all rivals. It does not matter who we play against, that Spain plays its game,” expressed a proud Luis Enrique at a press conference.
Or put another way, the National Team has a stable enough model to sustain the casualties of key men such as Dani Olmo, Pedri, Jordi Alba, José Luis Gayà, Thiago Alcántara, Álvaro Morata and Gerard Moreno. We talk about loss of goals, depth, last pass, continuity in possession, amplitude, verticality and even determination in the area. What’s more, we can say without fear of being wrong that, after these two games, Spain did not miss any of the aforementioned thanks to the excellent collective performance. It is to Luis Enrique’s credit for greasing the system and the players for interpreting it perfectly.
The defensive improvement has been vital
Today’s Spain is much better than the Spain that landed in the transalpine country after a very controversial call. The defensive growth of the national team compared to that exhibited in the European Championship is extraordinary. In that range of recoveries, defensive surveillance and suffocating immediate post-loss pressure, we must look for the keys to the shyness of Karim Benzema and Kylian Mbappé in the first half, drowned by the concentration of a group of defenders indicated in the Eurocup for their lack of forcefulness . “All the players have been very good. And we have controlled top players, who are very good,” said the coach after the final whistle.
The bet worked so well that Eric García did not suffer anything with Mbappé for many minutes and Sergio Busquets pocketed the MVP of the final. Two players who, today, suffer at Ronald Koeman’s Barça and seem to be below the required level on a liner. In the Selection, more protected and better accompanied, they were among the most outstanding although they had a great challenge before them. It’s not by chance; it is the result of being part of a collective gear where each piece understands its role. That is why France left with zero shots between the three suits at the end of the first half.
The bad news is that, despite being a team with all the letters that knows what to do at all times and play a great final, Spain lost the match. He did it by applying an absurd rule that put in value the referee, Anthony Taylor, and a penalty committed by Jules Koundé and not indicated, but above all because does not have any footballer in his position (especially up front) capable of tilting the game with a differential play. The two goals from Kylian Mbappé and Karim Benzema – especially the Madridista – were the burning nail that France grabbed at the most difficult moment for Deschamps. His actions changed everything.
“That’s the penalty … Everything was under control, and when we score the goal, they immediately draw us. It’s an interesting moment, because we could create problems for them with 1-0, but Mr. Karim Benzema scored a great goal.” Luis Enrique could not be more successful. The group can raise the average level of the footballers, squeeze the orange to the maximum, make up deficiencies and balance the matches until they are taken to the limit, but in the moment of truth, having or having stars makes a difference.
Unfortunately, Spain does not have any footballer capable of doing what Karim Benzema and Kylian Mbappé did in Italy. Nor among those not summoned for this appointment, no matter how much a part of the radical press or the most fanatical fans are in charge of repeating it as a mantra. The one who is closest to having those privileged attributes is Ansu Fati, but with one knee to try and with the World Cup just around the corner, it seems difficult to bet on the FC Barcelona player as that differential footballer that the National Team yearns for. Without that extra individual talent, the ceiling is much lower.