Luis Enrique is restless. No one would say that he has placed Spain in the round of 16. But the Asturian is a nonconformist, it is the key to his success. The how and not the what is what he is most concerned about. In the long run he is convinced that things will go better for him if he keeps his idea above the results. "I didn't like my team at all, I have nothing to celebrate," he cried almost at dawn in the bowels of the Khalifa stadium, west of Doha, after signing a bittersweet classification.
Losing to Japan, showing little ability to react, kept the Asturian tense throughout the game, endlessly touring his gigantic technical zone, continually consulting things with Rafel Pol and drinking water incessantly. The Spanish consolation came from Al Khor, where Germany drew a happy ending for the red, which will now have to face the mighty Morocco of Ziyech, En-Nesyri and company in the round of 16 of the World Cup.
Second place in the group gives Spain one more day of rest. Thus, the coach has almost four days to scare away the fears that may have settled in his dressing room. "We have to recover emotionally," emphasized Luis Enrique after the Japanese surprise. It should be remembered that Spain is the third youngest team in the World Cup, with an average age of 25.4, and that up to 20 of its players had never played in a World Cup before landing in Qatar. A scenario that after the setback suffered against Japan, more psychological than football as the coach himself admits, can invite doubts in the face of the unpredictable round of 16 match at the brand new Education City stadium.
It is curious what happens with the Spanish team, whose virtues in victory become their defects in defeat. Praised for her mastery of the game when things are going well, her lack of depth comes to the fore when things go wrong. The praise that Luis Enrique receives when he successfully opts for a mobile nine, as with Asensio against Costa Rica, turns into criticism for the absence of a clear reference in attack on days like Japan.
Defeat is not someone else's plate for Luis Enrique, conceded up to eight in his 44 games as coach. Less common, than unprecedented, is the "collapse" - a word cited by the Asturian - suffered against the Japanese team, conceded two goals in just three minutes, something similar to what happened against Croatia in the round of 16 of the last Euro Cup. But in Copenhagen Spain reacted in a big way in extra time, quite the opposite that happened on Thursday in Doha.
The national team's inability to change the course of their destiny bordered on alarming, no matter how much they regained control of the game after a few minutes and once again dominated the game. One of the things that Spain missed the most at that time was having a clear leader to cling to, to follow, in which to find peace of mind. Busquets is the captain and the only world champion left in the squad but Badia's man had no idea of him, unable to guide his team on the right path.
In another of the contradictions of this team, Unai Simón, so many times a hero with his saves, did not come off well for the Khalifa either. Again, as against Germany, his game with his feet disturbed his teammates more than calmed him, apart from not being at all successful in Japan's first goal.
The list of problems to solve is long but it does not seem endless. They are four key days for Luis Enrique. The fears of Spain stalk him.