Spain’s hopes of reaching the UEFA Nations League finals in 2022/23 have been dashed after falling to a meek 2-1 defeat to Switzerland in Zaragoza.
Spain fluffed their lines as they fell to a disappointing 2-1 defeat at the hands of Switzerland, which could potentially cost them a place in the UEFA Nations League finals. Luis Enrique’s men were not at their best on the night, as Switzerland struck from set pieces on either side half-time to hand Spain their first home loss in 22 games.
In a game featuring few clear-cut chances, Manuel Akanji headed the visitors the lead before half-time at Estadio La Romareda, making a mockery of Spain’s shoddy defending on set-pieces. The hosts did respond after the restart, as Jordi Alba scored his first international goal since 2017 with a spectacular drive after some excellent work down the right from Marco Asensio.
However, Switzerland reacted quickly, as Breel Embolo bullied the weak Spain backline to poke home and bring the visitors back in front, from another corner. The hosts had extended spells of possession but did little with it. Spain failed to register a single shot on target in the first-half as they continually moved the ball out to the flanks and sent in crosses to no one in particular, but it highlights the clear fault in their approach to the game.
Despite having only 31 per cent possession, Switzerland ended the game with more shots, more shots on goal, and more corners. The visitors set up a deep mid-block which pressed on the trigger, while their back-five never over-committed to prevent gaps in behind. La Roja were better after Luis Enrique made a raft of changes, but they could not force the issue up against a resilient, compact Swiss defence.
The result lifts Switzerland off the bottom of the group in their bid to avoid dropping out of League A, while it puts Spain under pressure ahead of Tuesday’s meeting with table-topper Portugal, who beat the Czech Republic on Saturday, as they must win that clash to book a semi-final berth. In the meantime, The Hard Tackle rates the performances of Luis Enrique’s troops.
Unai Simon: 5/10
Simon did not have much to do in goal for Spain on the night, but he still let in two poor goals from corners. While he could not do anything to prevent Switzerland’s second goal, with Embolo too close to him, he should have stopped the first one despite the ball taking an odd bounce given his height. He was hesitant to come off his line to make high claims, while a shaky defence in front of him did not inspire any confidence either.
Jordi Alba: 7.5/10
Alba put in a brilliant performance, and he was tireless with his overlapping runs in the opposition half. However, his teammates seemed to be ignoring him when made darting runs. But when Marco Asensio picked him out in acres of space, the Barcelona full-back rifled his shot past Yann Sommer and into the top right corner. Crosses were wasteful, though.
Pau Torres: 5/10
As ever, Pau Torres was impeccable in his distribution, attempting 119 passes with 92 per cent accuracy, including four accurate long balls. He was calm enough defensively but very uncomfortable under pressure, losing the ball cheaply and weakly several times. He failed to organise a good defensive line, but it just showed Spain’s fragility in the absence of leaders such as Aymeric Laporte and Sergio Ramos.
Eric Garcia: 6/10
Eric García vs. Switzerland
Successful Passes: 131
Expected Threat: 0.19
Progression via pass: 8.45
Progression via carry: 8.62 pic.twitter.com/2K9BcIT2BN
— markstats bot (@markstatsbot) September 24, 2022
Twitter trolls aside, Garcia was comfortably one of the better defenders for Spain. He always looked forward and distributed the ball nicely while being alert to runners in front, covering to snuff out danger on several occasions with one crucial intervention. Garcia was sloppy in the mix-up that led to Switzerland’s goal.
Cesar Azpilicueta: 4/10
Azpilicueta was arguably the weak link in Spain’s backline and had some nervy moments in his own half. The veteran full-back did not offer much in the final third and will need to improve to keep his place in Luis Enrique’s side.
Pedri was a bit off-colour on the night as he did not carry the same creative threat generally associated with him, and could not find those pockets of space to exploit in front of a rigid Swiss defence. While the Barcelona starlet was far from anonymous, Spain could have used more verticality from his passing.
Sergio Busquets: 7.5/10
Busquets vs Switzerland
(Uefa Nations League)
?90/90 minutes played
?Best player from Spain
?2 key Passes
?8/9 accurate long balls
?87% pass accuracy
?100% Dribble success rate
?6/9 Ground duals won
The greatest CDM off all times ? pic.twitter.com/714kRhV1Fn
— ?????? ?‘? ?? (@ViscaBusquets) September 24, 2022
Despite his advancing years, Busquets looked like the most agile player in Spain’s midfield. He constantly picked clever and progressive passes to recycle the ball and keep his side ticking along. Busquets was particularly effective in the first half as Spain controlled the proceedings but faded a bit in the second half. Arguably the hosts’ best player on the pitch. Such a one-of-a-kind player with so many intangibles.
Gavi was, unsurprisingly a livewire in midfield and seems to be thriving in a free role. He was influential in most of the good things his side did, from driving with the ball on the half turn to winning cute fouls to overturning pressure. Gavi worked tirelessly to make numerous recoveries while also being effective with his passing, attempting 66 passes with 97 per cent accuracy and completing each of his three long balls.
Pablo Sarabia: 5/10
After the high of scoring against the Czech Republic came the low of going anonymous against Switzerland, with Sarabia failing to create anything of note during his stay on the pitch, which lasted only 63 minutes. It was not as if Spain’s midfielders were not feeding him, but he was just very wasteful, losing possession on 14 occasions.
Marco Asensio: 7/10
— Kamy Talks Football (@bloodofmadrid) September 25, 2022
Playing as a false nine, Asensio was by far the most productive Spanish attacker. Asensio’s strengths clearly are not suited to this role. The Real Madrid attacker excels in transitions and open spaces, and this role requires him to drop deep to receive the ball, often in between the lines and against some tight marking.
After getting frustrated with the lack of service in the second half, Asensio took the matter into his own hands, pulling the whole Swiss defence out of position with a sensational run, opening up space on the left to be exploited, before rolling a pass into the path of Jordi Alba, who lashed the ball past Sommer.
Ferran Torres: 5/10
Torres once again flattered to deceive against Switzerland. It was a largely forgettable performance, apart from a few moments when he got the better of Ricardo Rodriguez. His wastefulness on the ball, in particular, was irritating, as he lost control 13 times. Has to improve.
Ferran Torres consistently playing bad game after game but his fans on Twitter are so edgy you'd think he's David Villa regen https://t.co/lYkLc3HK8X
— ?™ (@LioneI19i) September 25, 2022
Borja Iglesias: 7/10
Despite topping every possession stat, Spain were not penetrating the Swiss defence enough. This changed after a raft of substitutions, which included Iglesias’s introduction. He is the unorthodox prototype of a player for this Spanish national side with his No. 9 attributes and clever movement to get in behind the opposition.
Iglesias tried to be an aerial outlet and a physical presence for the hosts. All in all, he showed many positive signs, and it would not be surprising to see him make his full debut for Spain against Portugal.
Nico Williams: 7/10
Williams looked like a special player and offered directness after coming on as a substitute. He was confident, dynamic, and very positive with the ball. His excellent balance and changes of pace were a nightmare to deal with for Switzerland. The Athletic Bilbao attacker created several dangerous situations down the flanks and notably had the beating of full-back Renato Steffen.
Yeremy Pino: 6/10
Renowned for his explosive nature and quick bursts of speed, Yeremy could not make good use of his assets, and barring a nutmeg to lift the crowd, he rarely created anything of note.
Marcos Llorente: 6/10
It was baffling why Enrique did not start Llorente. Upon his introduction, the Atletico Madrid midfielder added the much-needed penetration and was pushing the cause, completing a game-high two dribbles despite only being introduced around the 70th-minute mark.
Carlos Soler: N/A
Did not play enough to warrant a rating.