Spain manager Luis Enrique said he felt “football was unfair” in his team’s loss to Croatia in the UEFA Nations League on Thursday.
Croatia earned a dramatic 3-2 win thanks to a Tin Jedvaj brace, with his second goal a stoppage-time winner. Speaking after the game, Enrique said he felt as though the team deserved a positive outcome for their performance, per Football Espana:
“The team deserved more, certainly not a defeat. Their first goal came from a mistake, the second was from a set-piece and their last one was lucky as it came when both teams were going for it.
“Obviously it would’ve been much better to win. We did some good things in the second half, but they opted to play on the break and not press very high. …
“We came back twice and deserved something from it. We hit the woodwork and it’s incredible that some of our chances didn’t go in. I don’t think football was fair to us tonight.”
A win would have ensured Spain a place in the Nations League finals, but now their fate is out of their hands. They need England and Croatia to draw when they meet at Wembley on Sunday; a win for either side would be enough to put them top of the group.
Spain twice came from behind in Zagreb, with goals from Dani Ceballos and Sergio Ramos cancelling out efforts from Andrej Kramaric and Jedvaj. They had numerous chances to score more times in the second period, with Iago Aspas and Alvaro Morata far too profligate with their opportunities.
In the competition, per Sid Lowe of the Guardian, the Spanish have always been enjoyable to watch:
Sid Lowe @sidlowe
Spain’s four Nations League games have produced NINETEEN goals. It’s been fun.
However, given they’ve now conceded six times in their last two Nations League matches, there are clearly issues for Enrique to work on.
Following the international retirement of Gerard Pique, the Spain defence hasn’t looked quite as secure, with Enrique struggling to find a successor for the centre-back. In addition, Ramos has also had a challenging start to the season for Real Madrid and has been out of sorts defensively in recent matches.
Spanish football journalist David Cartlidge commented on other areas where Spain appeared vulnerable on the night:
David Cartlidge @davidjaca
When Iñigo was the best defender for Spain it kinda sums it up really. Did really well covering for a wild Ramos and Sergi Roberto who simply couldn’t defend. The sight of Busquets coughing up a lung to get back isn’t one you’d expect to still see.
The result was a big one for Croatia, as they would have been disappointed by the way in which they played against Spain previously; the FIFA World Cup finalists were hammered 6-0 in the last meeting between the two teams.
While Croatia and England will fight it out in London, next up for Spain is a friendly with Bosnia-Herzegovina on Sunday in Gran Canaria, where Enrique will look to sort out some of those defensive woes that cost his side on Thursday.