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SPAIN 3 PORTUGAL 3 | WORLD CUP 2018 GROUP B

SPAIN kicked off tonight its WORLD CUP 2018 participation against PORTUGAL in Group B. The final result a 3 - 3 draw that could have gone either way. Spain after the turmoil of losing their Coach Lopetegui after being fired coinciding with his Real Madrid Coaching announcement 48 hours previously, started with nerves as expected but ended much better, with 3 goals & a good overall performance. PORTUGAL has CRISTIANO RONALDO & while he may not be as illustrative as others his efficiency & optimization when he receives or faces goal is absolutely deadly. The Real Madrid player & Portugal Captain got himself a HAT-TRICK & was the driver & the protagonist of his team tonight. 

World Cup 2018


The Spain & Portugal starting line-ups are above & Spain basically kept the habitual formula & set up coming into this World Cup . Spain puts their Football in ball possession, with long build ups looking for the gaps & Diego Costa upfront, while Portugal functions on the counter-attack & long balls to Cristiano Ronaldo. Both formulas worked as Ronaldo got three goals while Diego Costa scored 2 goals.

SPAIN kicked off tonight its WORLD CUP 2018 participation against PORTUGAL in Group B. The final result a 3 - 3 draw that could have gone either way.

Portugal got off to a great start when Ronaldo was fouled in the square by Nacho & was awarded a penalty in the 4th min. The goal brought doubts to the Spanish Team but they managed to get back their concentration to find their game. DIEGO COSTA draw in the 23rd min & things looked good for Spain. They had Portugal on the back foot creating opportunities until Ronaldo in the 44th min shot at goal a weak ball that Spanish goalie DAVID DE GEA fumbled to find the net. A shocker just before half time that hurt psychologically Spain. 

Portugal - Spain World Cup 2018

Spain started the 2º half again with doubts & nerves but managed to find their touch Football & regained their confidence. From a set piece free kick Busquets headed into the square where DIEGO COSTA knocked in the equalizer.  This lifted Spain & gave them a moral boost to find their BEST moments of the match. They were rewarded when defender NACHO hooked onto a loose ball outside the box in the 58th min that flew into goal. Spain was clearly dominating & could have scored a 4th but Costa could get in on time.

Portugal - Spain World Cup 2018

With Spain dominating proceedings a Pique foul on Ronaldo just outside the area allowed the Real Madrid player to convert a free kick in a unstoppable goal & equalizer in the 88th min. The free kick was spectacular & Spain watched how a "simple" foul poured cold water over their very good performance overall. 

In resume, given the circumstances both teams will be satisfied with the result, while Spain will be extra satisfied given the context, the crisis & turmoil experienced 48 hours before this match. Outstanding match from Isco, Koke & Diego Costa for Spain.

SPANISH FOOTBALL FEDERATION SACKS SELECTOR & COACH JULEN LOPEREGUI

Its the news BOMB of Spanish Sports & World Football, the Spanish Football Federation under President Luis Rubiales has sacked their current Spanish Football Team Selector & Coach JULEN LOPETEGUI with just 2 days from their debut in the 2018 FIFA World Cup.

Definitely not the best way to begin your World Cup campaign considering that Spain has high expectations & is considered a clear favourite. Spain begins it first match next Friday against Portugal & this event has to have serious consequences on the Spanish Team players.

Spain sacks Coach Lopetegui

Everything got triggered & ignited after REAL MADRID CF announced officially yesterday afternoon that Julen Lopetegui would substitute resigned Coach Zidane after the World Cup. This did not go down at all well with the Spanish Football Federation as they claim they were marginalised from negotiations, were not previously informed of the Real Madrid communication (5 minutes before claimed President Rubiales he was informed) & that the timing was not in the best interests of the Spanish National Team.

President of the Spanish Football Federation Luis Rubiales cited that the methods & forms adapted was contrary to the values promoted where the National interest outweighs the individual. He added that the decision was painful & extremely difficult but there was not option given under the circumstances. 


Hours before the announcement Spanish Team Players lead by Captain Sergio Ramos voiced their opposition against the sacking as the "remedy" was worse than the "cure". The players wanted Coach Julen Lopetegui to continue & at least maintain a clear direction & course during the soon to start World Cup.

Now the unknown is who will take over the direction of the Spanish National Team. Federation President Rubiales announced that the intention is to make the most smoothest transition possible. This leads many to postulate that 2º Coach ( & U/21 Selector) Albert Celades could take the ruins, along with Spanish Team Director Fernando Hierro. It is being discussed & debated while I write this post. 

The correct decision? Perhaps, the forms & the timing of the Real Madrid announcement was not the most appropriate. However, with just 2 days away from Spain commencing their World Cup campaign & against current European Champions, perhaps the "greater picture" was over looked along with the opinions of the players.

What is certain is that this is a strong & heavy blow to the Spanish National Team which has their concentration & heads on external issues & not on the "job at hand". Not to mention the elimination of the "leader" who took them to Russia in the first place.

  

REAL MADRID | JULEN LOPETEGUI NEW COACH

REAL MADRID has made official with an announcement on their website that current Spanish Football Selector & Coach JULEN LOPETEGUI will be their new Coach of the current Champions League Champions after the World Cup. 

Julen Lopetegui fills the "huge gap" left open after Zinedine Zidane announced weeks back that he was stepping down as Coach, leaving everyone at Real Madrid in "shock". The Spanish Football Club quickly put themselves to work to probe potential candidates, which for a Club at this level are only a hand full.

The first choice was Mauricio Pochettino of Tottenham Hotspurs, but the Tottenham Coach had recently signed his renewal with the London Club & Real Madrid preferred not to enter into a negotiating "war" with owner Levy. Thus this choice was discarded. 

The other names were Liverpool Coach Kloop also with contract, Allegri of Juventus who said no due to personal reasons, German National Team Selector Low & Chelsea FC coach Conte. There was even a rumour that perhaps ex Real Madrid players Laudrup, Michel or even Guti would be given the position. In the end Real Madrid has surprised most with the Lopetegui announcement. 

Real Madrid Coach

Julen Lopetegui started his professional Football career as Goalkeeper at Real Madrid with 19 years of age, thus he is very familiar with the Club (apart later training as Coach of Real Madrid B) . He wasn´t able to consolidate his position due to the heavy competition from the then Real Madrid goalie Francisco Buyo. He was loaned out & later moved to other Clubs ( Logroñes, FC Barcelona & Rayo Vallecano) were he gained his prestige as one of Spanish Football finest goalkeepers reaching the Spanish National Team. 

He has Coaching experience, apart from the Spain National Team, with the U/19 & U/21 Spanish National Teams (winning European Championships) & Oporto. 

Although the news of the Lopetegui announcement has caught most "offside" their was talk that the Real Madrid players of the Spanish National Team ( Ramos, Carvajal, Isco, Vazquez, Nacho & Asensio) have recommended to Real Madrid Directives that Lopetegui was their man. If this is true, this may have weight heavily in favour of the naming. Julen Lopetegui had recently extended his contract with the Spanish National Team until 2020 but a release clause of 2M€ was included which Real Madrid have executed.

We wish the best of luck to Lopetegui on his new position, a job full of pressure & with the added shadow of the 3 straight Champions League wins under Zidane looming. 


SPAIN 1 TUNISIA 0 | INTERNATIONAL FRIENDLY GAME

SPAIN won 1 - 0 TUNISIA in the last Friendly game before they start their WORLD CUP campaign next Friday the 15th of June when they play their Group opener against the current European Champions Portugal. Tough one for a starter.

Spain Football Team 11 photo

The Spanish National Football Team Coach Lopetegui started with the above 11 (in photo), but later changed the line-up giving player Nacho, Koke, Asensio, Aspas, Diego Costa & Vasquez a run. 

Spain

Tunisia which is also a World Cup qualifier gave Spain a difficult time & was an excellent "sparring" partner to test the Spaniards which overall did not play well. Although no one can question their dominance with the ball, Spain has a long time problem that still has not been solve: the lack of goal

Spain was relatively slow tonight & their moves became predictable thus not really bothering Tunisia which pressured the Spanish midfielders forcing them to lose the ball & give the Tunisian forwards goal opportunities, especially in the first half. Luckily for Spain, Tunisia was not firing upfront on all cylinders & missed many occasions.

The match allowed Spanish Coach Lopetegui to experiment with players & tactical systems ending the game with just 3 defenders as Spain looked for the winner. The goal finally came after Diego Costa got the ball & after dribbling goalie & defender found ASPAS nearly outside the box who scored the 84th min.


A hard worked victory which opens more questions than gives answers. Spain will have to decide their final 11 starters & figure out how to lift the efficiency rate in front of goal, the only true area that leaves doubt over the team. Looked at it in a more "philosophical manner" tonights less than optimal performance by Spain will avoid the danger of the squad going into the World Cup Group stage with over confidence. This is positive.

INTERNATIONAL FRIENDLY | SPAIN 1 SWITZERLAND 1

SPAIN played SWITZERLAND in a Friendly International tonight which ended in a 1 - 1 draw result. Both teams will be present in the upcoming World Cup Finals in Russia & this encounter severed as a good sparring occasion. 

Spain vs Switzerland 2018

Spain began with the following starting line-up:


De Gea, Odriozola, Pique, Azpilicueta, Jordi Alba, Thiago, Koke, Silva, Iniesta, Aspas & Diego Costa.

which later changed as Coach Lopetegui gave other squad members (Nacho, Asensio, Saul, Monreal, Rodrigo...) a run later in the game.

As one would expect the game had a "practice" feel about it for both teams as they worked on fine tuning their line-ups & getting players into the groove. The goals were scored by defender Alvaro Odriozola in the 29th min & Ricardo Rodríguez for Switzerland in the 62nd min. The Swiss goal came through a De Gea clearing mistake that will need to be looked at internally to sharpen reflexes.


Spain will incorporate tomorrow the Real Madrid players Sergio Ramos & Isco to complete the squad & will play their last Friendly International next week against Tunisia. There World Cup Group opening match is scheduled for the 15th of June against current European Champions Portugal. 

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