After the loss against Scotland, with Hampden Park dancing in the rain, the Spanish players disappeared down the tunnel to the dressing room. There they met Luis de la Fuente, who was waiting for them with an affectionate gesture for each one. As the coach later developed before the press, the 2-0 had seemed more hopeful than alarming. The footballers, hurt by losing, felt closer to the coach’s analysis than to the criticism that came their way. The progress they had detected on the field seemed more relevant to them than the three-point harvest obtained against the teams that occupy positions 42 and 43 in the FIFA ranking, Scotland and Norway. Spain is in 10.
The footballers ended up convinced that there were relevant aspects of the game that were beginning to work, despite the little time they had had to work together. Faced with traffic jams, they are less rhetorical than in previous times, more determined in their advances towards the goal. The coach insisted several times not to stop at the result: “I want to go a little further. Yes, I am satisfied to have recognized football situations and gestures, approaches that we have worked on these few days and that I have recognized on the pitch. The idea is what it is and the footballers are convinced”. Mikel Merino underpinned the message: “We have clear ideas, but we have to improve. The road is long and the trust is intact”.
For the moment, the first days of coexistence in the Ciudad del Futbol de Las Rozas have served to build that harmony that did not seem to be affected by the defeat. Nor do they want to dramatize it in the federation, where the sources consulted highlight that the classification for the Euro 2024 is not compromised. However, they do not forget the next season on the Spanish calendar, already with a title at stake. On June 15 they face Italy in the semifinal of the Nations League in Enschede (Netherlands). “The final four it will give our level”, they say.
Despite not being in the last World Cup, Italy is closer to Spain in the ranking, in eighth position. The other semifinalists, the Netherlands and Croatia, appear on the sixth and seventh steps respectively. The contrast with teams of its spectrum will allow to evaluate if the selection moves up or down in the international scene.
By then they will have had a little more time together, but not much more. In this break, De la Fuente led only four complete training sessions: one last Tuesday, two on Wednesday and another on Thursday. On the Monday that the players arrived they completed a rather relaxed time open to the public, and on Friday they also exercised with less intensity in the run-up to the match against Norway. Sunday was recovery and Monday again previous. So the efforts were focused on the study through videos.
With the planning that is being handled at the moment, De la Fuente would only have one more day than this time before playing against Italy. The last day of the League is scheduled for Sunday June 4 and the beginning of the concentration, for Friday 9, the eve of the Champions League final.
The coach says he has a clear path, but the calendar is an obstacle: “The problem is that we don’t have another chance until June,” he said on Tuesday, still at Hampden Park. The circumstances of that match also add difficulties. After the one from Norway (3-0), which was also complicated despite the absence of Haaland, the coach referred to the advantages of winning when it came to fine-tuning the mechanism: “Since the victory many more things have been corrected and better way”. The defeat against Scotland, which the coach attributed to “two accidents”, requires more analysis these days, according to federation sources.
According to several sources with access to the dressing room, the impression after this first round of work with the coach is that more progress has been made in building the group than in the team. The atmosphere in the concentration has been very good, with footballers who compete for a position, such as the forwards, sharing time very closely.
But in view of the performance on the field, the team’s assembly still needs tweaking. De la Fuente pointed out the difficulties of the calendar for this task that he identified as a priority from the beginning. The dates are even more pressing if the transformation of the group is taken into account. The coach introduced 15 footballers who had not been to the World Cup in his first list. In addition, between the first game and the second, he made eight changes to the starting eleven. “If I have done that and it has gone well, why change?” He said, referring to his custom in the sub 21, where he used to between four and six variations.
The coach is convinced of the convenience of this volatile scenario, according to sources from the expedition. Although it has been found very soon with the first shock. He is a tough guy. He already warned it in Malaga, the day he beat Norway: “Suffering doesn’t scare me. I don’t understand my life without constant suffering. I understand it as an inherent part of life.”
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Source: EL PAIS