Of the great sensations left in the Euro 2020, eliminated only from the semifinal penalty shootout by champion Italy, and the breath of good football in the final phase of the Nations League, runner-up, yielding only to a controversial goal from Kylian Mbappé, Spain moves into a qualifying phase turned into a nightmare, with the obligation to beat Greece in Athens before playing against Sweden in Qatar 2022.
The reconstruction of the Spain of Luis Enrique he undergoes a final examination at the point of greatest difficulty in his double stage as coach. The loss of prestige of falling to a poisoned repechage, with three seats to be distributed among twelve teams in a single match, It is the threat that knocks on the national team’s door if they do not succeed in their duels against Greece and Sweden, which have become ‘finals’. The pressure is maximum.
Few could imagine the value of a stumbling start in the tie yielded against Greece in Granada. That exercise of impotence against a rival with a defensive approach, the kind that choke on a Spain that shines against the greats and ploses identity when measuring lesser rivals, it would be aggravated by defeat, months later, in Sweden.
Since Germany 1974 the Spanish team has not been left out of a World Cup. Eleven appearances in a row, added pressure for a group hit by injuries that cause an unsustainable schedule. Luis Enrique, forced to retouch his typical team, without the presence of those young values that augur a bright future for La Roja and who have adapted quickly, despite their young age, to the demands of the big events. Pedri and Ansu Fati will not be. Neither Ferran Torres, the top scorer, nor Mikel Oyarzabal, two indisputable in the offensive trident. Casualties hit all the lines of the field, without Eric García, Marcos Llorente, Yeremi Pino or Gerard Moreno.
To refloat hope, expected returns appear, such as that of Dani Carvajal after year and two months away from La Roja by muscle injuries, Dani Olmo absent since the Eurocup or the return to the figure of 9, after attending the final phase of the League of Nations without a pure one in the call. Order gallons Alvaro Morata Again as a benchmark, with options in the return of Rodrigo Moreno and the desired call to Raúl de Tomás, the top national scorer in LaLiga, to whom the losses from the initial call have given him a well-deserved award.
Spain needs a goal, and he has had it in his last ten games in which it is Luis Enrique’s second best streak, but above all he demands football solutions from his 4-3-3 to overcome the Hellenic wall in Athens. That is where the return to Carlos Soler’s starting team passes (two goals in three caps), who would send the last sensation, Gavi, to the bench, who at the age of 17 gave a lesson in personality against the European and world champion in the League of Naciones. He would remain in the eleven if Luis Enrique dispenses with Koke, but the coach draws on experience at a key moment. Jordi Alba or José Gayà on the left-handed side, Carvajal or César Azpilicueta on the right, Pau Torres or Íñigo Martínez are the doubts to clear in a defense with a new identity to try to stop being the weak point of the team.
Greece welcomes Spain aware that he is facing the one he considers “the best team in the world”, in the words of their coach, Dutchman John van ‘t Schip, but ready to give their all in the last two group stage matches to qualify, against Red and Kosovo.
The Greek team arrives with 9 points on the penultimate day of the qualifying phase for the World Cup in Qatar, four points behind Spain and 6 points behind Sweden, who leads the table of group B. “We need to take the victory in the last two days. We have to believe that we can, although we know that the task will not be easy,” said Schip.
However, Schip will not be able to count on the captain of the national team, Anastasios Bakasetas this time, since the player of the Trabzonspor Kulübü He suffered a knee injury last Saturday in a Turkish league game and will be out for at least three weeks.
Greece also accumulates another loss in its defense line after the expulsion of Pantelís Hatzidiákos in the match on the last day against Sweden, in which the Helena team lost 2-0. Androutsos, 24, is shaping up to be a possible substitute to fill the position, after proving to be a key player in games against Kosovo and Sweden in September and earning the starting spot against Georgia and Sweden in October.
Spain will have to overcome a goalkeeper in the form of Odisseas Vlachodimos, used to shining at Benfica, who has only conceded six goals in the six games played in the qualifying phase. Added to the Greek defensive strength, they represent the first test in three decisive days.
Greece: Vlachodimos, Tzavellas, Mavropanos, Tsimikas, Bouchalakis, Manolis Siopis, Androutsos, Giannoulis, Pavlidis, Giorgos Masouras and Douvikas.
Spain: Unai Simón; Carvajal, Laporte, Pau Torres, Jordi Alba; Busquets, Koke, Carlos Soler; Sarabia, Dani Olmo and Morata.
Referee: Szymon Marciniak (Poland).
Stadium: Olympic of Athens (OAKA).
Hour: 20.45 (21:45 local time).