New Spain coach Luis de la Fuente’s project suffered an early setback in a sobering defeat by Scotland in Glasgow on Tuesday in Euro 2024 qualifiers.
After a solid win over a Norwegian side without in-form striker Erling Haaland in Saturday’s first qualifier, Scott McTominay’s brace secured a surprise 2-0 home win over La Roja at Hampden Park.
De la Fuente – an unknown relative who has never made it in La Liga – was promoted to the job after Luis Enrique left in December following Spain’s disappointing 2022 World Cup season.
Spain put on an incoherent, stubborn performance after falling early from behind and suffering their first defeat by Scotland since 1984 and their first EURO qualifier defeat since 2014.
De la Fuente made eight substitutions compared to the win against Norway, keeping only goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga and midfield spinners Rodri and Mikel Merino.
The coach only wanted to explore his options in his second competitive game, but tinkered too much.
Spain’s five substitutions didn’t help improve a performance, which deteriorated as the evening progressed as they lacked the lead.
One of De la Fuente’s early decisions was not to rely on Paris Saint-Germain defender Sergio Ramos, 36, who retired from international duty after the manager called him to explain the situation.
Experienced defensive midfielder Sergio Busquets was also eliminated after Spain’s round of 16 defeat by Morocco in Qatar.
“The defeat in Scotland is no coincidence,” wrote Spanish newspaper Marca.
“The national team is showing signs that they are stuck in a maze with no exit nearby.”
Only one player in the starting line-up, Dani Ceballos, played for Real Madrid, runners-up in La Liga and there was none from leaders Barcelona.
By contrast, only one member of the team that started Spain’s 2010 World Cup final win did not play for either of Spain’s top two clubs – then defender Joan Capdevila at Villarreal.
One caveat is that Barcelona midfielder Pedri is injured and Gavi came on from the bench towards the end.
But while Real Madrid’s Alejandro Balde and Nacho Fernandez started against Norway, the current players lack top quality.
Espanyol striker Joselu, 33, made his full debut while the Spain coach also gave Osasuna defender David Garcia his debut.
– ‘No doubt’ –
Arguing that Scotland’s defeat was due to one-off mistakes, De la Fuente said the team was otherwise fine, while Rodri complained that Scotland were using time-wasting tactics in the game.
“That’s how they play,” the midfielder told Viaplay.
“For me it’s a bit of rubbish, always wasting time provoking you and they always fall, for me it’s not football.
“For the speed of the sport you have to keep going, but the referee has to act.
“It’s a bit frustrating because you want to win and they’re wasting time. It is what it is, they have their guns, we must use our guns.”
Despite the defeat, the Manchester City player said he didn’t want to leave any doubts but admitted the team needs to improve.
“No doubts, please don’t start with doubts,” Rodri added on Teledeporte.
“We’re working, we’re trying, we’ve done a lot of things well. Obviously in football it’s the goal that counts.”
“We have to improve these mistakes, individual mistakes, they cost us. We have to improve these details.”
Rodri’s engineering partner Merino said the side are still confident in De la Fuente and the new line-up.
“From the start, the coach gave us the tools and ideas to rely on and we have confidence,” said Merino.
“Of course we still have a lot of work to do and we need to improve, that’s for sure. But the idea is the same, our confidence is still intact, it’s a long way, we have to keep calm to make it happen.”
Source : sports.yahoo.com