Spain seek elusive victory in Portugal

MADRID (AP) — Coach Luis Enrique tried to stay optimistic about Spain’s chances of advancing in the Nations League after a disappointing home loss to Switzerland.

After all, La Roja can still secure a place in the final with a victory in Portugal on Tuesday.

« We see it as a final, » Luis Enrique said on Monday, two days after the 2-1 loss to Switzerland lifted Spain from first to second in Group A2 ahead of the deciding game in Braga. « It’s positive to come to the last round with a possibility of winning the group. »

But beating Portugal isn’t something Spain have been able to do recently. The Iberian neighbors have drawn their last four friendlies inclusive, and Spain have not won against Portugal for almost two decades.

His last victory against Portugal came in a penalty shootout in the semi-finals of the 2012 European Championship, and before that he won in the round of 16 of the 2010 World Cup in a game where the Portugal complained of offside on David Villa’s winning goal in the second half.

In Portugal, Spain have been winless since a 3-0 win in a friendly in 2003, when Fernando Torres made his national debut for Spain, and shortly after Cristiano Ronaldo started playing for Portugal.

“It’s all part of football. We have three recent games in which we played well, but we didn’t win and they ended in draws,” said Luis Enrique.

The teams have drawn four times in a row since coach Fernando Santos took control of Portugal after the 2014 World Cup, including a thrilling 3-3 game to open their campaigns in the group stage of the FIFA World Cup. World Cup 2018.

« We just have to focus on winning rather than reaching the last four, » Santos said on Monday. « I want the players to face Spain on their merit, as they do all their opponents. Do that and we will always be closer to where we want to go.

Spain need the win after seeing their 22-game unbeaten streak at home ended by Switzerland on Saturday. Portugal won 4-0 against the Czech Republic to take first place and earn a chance to qualify with a draw on Tuesday.

Only the group winners will advance to the final four next June. Portugal have 10 points, two more than Spain. Switzerland have six points, two more than the Czech Republic before their game in Switzerland to try to avoid relegation.

Spain are looking for their second consecutive last-four appearance after finishing as runners-up in France last year. At that time, he also needed a victory on the final day to qualify for the last four, and he did so by shocking Germany 6-0 at home.

Luis Enrique said he didn’t expect many changes to the squad for the match against Portugal despite Saturday’s defeat, although he admitted the team needed to improve their kicking defense stopped, which is how Switzerland scored their two goals.

Portugal, winners of the inaugural Nations League in 2019, could see the return of striker João Félix, who was unavailable for the game against the Czech Republic due to injury. He joined his teammates in training on Sunday.


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