Earlier this week Spain will have gone into their third game of the UEFA Nations League at the Estadio Bennto Villamarin in Seville feeling confident. They were at the top of group D with six points having defeated Croatia 6 – 0 and England 2 – 1 at the reverse fixture. They also enjoyed a win over Wales in a friendly last week.
However, much to the surprise of both England and Spanish fans, it soon because apparent that this confidence may have been misplaced. They found themselves trailing just sixteen minutes into the game after Sterling tapped home his first goal for England in over three years; he also became the first English player to score in Spain since Gary Lineker in 1987.
Sterling secured his brace before half time and Marcus Rashford also got in on the action to help the team go into the break 3 – 0 ahead. The second half saw Borussia Dortmund forward Paco Alcacer continue his recent run of good form and pull one goal back, and then team captain Sergio Ramos just managed to grab one more in the final minute of stoppage time.
The result will have come as a huge shock for Spain who had just begun to rebuild after their disappointing performance at the World Cup. They had seemed to be improving since the appointment of Luis Enrique as manager and won five out of five matches under him. However, this match was the first time that Spain had conceded three goals at home in a competitive match. It was also their first competitive loss at home since 2003. Here we will take a look at some of the factors that contributed to the result.
Sergio Ramos Is an Inadequate Defensive Leader
Throughout Monday’s game Harry Kane constantly exposed Sergio Ramos. Ramos is often considered to be one of the best defenders in the world and he has made it into the FIFPRO XI in each of the last six editions. However, a close examination reveals that he may not be as good as is assumed.
Ramos has been playing at Real Madrid since he moved from Sevilla in 2005. During his time at the Bernabeu he has won numerous trophies, particularly in the last four years, since he was named as captain of the side.
It is widely known that Real Madrid do not have the best defence in the world and that most of their success comes from how effective they are at attacking. They rely on their superb forwards to outscore the opposition and this tactic has largely worked in recent years.
If one looks at Ramos as just a defender, without the occasional goal, he is not particularly impressive. He is regularly beaten in one-on-ones by strikers, and it is not unusual to see him make poor decisions that lead to unnecessary bookings and sending offs. However, he tends to mask this with many goals and trophies.
In the match against England, Spain’s captain regularly showed a lack of awareness, failed to pick up on Kane and allowed him to drop deep unmarked. It was from this position that Kane was able to play his vital role in setting up England’s second and third goals. This is a fairly elementary error from Ramos, and one that player with his experience shouldn’t make. However, it was good news for the England fans.
Harry Kane is Continually Improving
— Harry Kane (@HKane) October 16, 2018
Monday’s match saw Harry Kane provide two assists against Spain. Over the last few seasons, Kane come to be recognised as one of the most effective forwards in Europe. He has scored an impressive amount of goals since he earned his place in the Tottenham Hotspur starting eleven in 2014, and he won the EPL Golden Boot in consecutive seasons in 2016 and 2017. Furthermore, he outscored both Messi and Ronaldo in the 2017 calendar year.
While Kane is undoubtedly an excellent goal-scorer, many people say that he is a typical England centre forward, meaning that he is excellent in the box, but lacks the technicality or expertise to play anywhere else on the field.
However, his performance on Monday night will have silenced his critics. He showed that he is able to adapt his style of play to suit the modern game. He regularly drops back to try to influence play, particularly when he takes on the role of England captain.
Kane played a vital part in all three of England’s goals against Spain, he worked well with Rashford and Sterling giving them opportunities to score. In each case, it was Kane’s precision work that gave Rashford and Sterling the opportunity to score with ease.
Despite winning the World Cup Golden Boot in Russia with his six goals, Kane has still come in for a great deal of criticism for not being more involved. However, he has recently shown a much more rounded and well-balanced style of play and it is clear that he has truly developed into one of the world’s best strikers.
Furthermore, it is important to remember that a striker’s primary job is to score and Kane has never disappointed in this respect. At just 25 years old he has won numerous awards and he has a talent for scoring goals from all sorts of positions, whether from outside the box, simple tap-ins, penalties, or anything else.
Barcelona May Grow to Regret Letting Paco Alcacer
Paco Alcacer was bought by Barcelona for €30 million in 2016 after he caught their eye with some impressive performances at Valencia in La Liga.
However, due to the impressive nature of Barcelona’s forwards, Alcacer struggled to break into the first team and it was no surprise when he moved to Dortmund on a season long loan. At Dortmund Alcacer has been thriving and scored six goals in just three league matches, despite not starting in a single game. He has also scored in each of his last five straight matches.
Barcelona are reliant upon Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez to score for them and there has been a lack of goals recently. With a lack of alternative goal scorers, the decision to allow Alcacer to move may be one that the team grows to regret.
Ross Barkley Looks Excellent Under Sarri.
When Ross Barkley broke into the Everton first team in 2013 he was considered one of England’s most promising talents. At 24 years old, he demonstrated a technicality on the ball that is rare to see in English players.
At the end of 2016 his career stalled for a bit after he fell out with manager Ronald Koeman over details of a contract extensions, and then he was out for the entirety of the 2017/18 season with a hamstring injury. As a result, many were surprised when Chelsea paid £15 million for him in January this year.
Very little was expected of Barkley after his time on the sidelines. However, manager Maurizio Sarri was eager to give him a trial and Barkley has grabbed the opportunity with both hands. He has made seven appearances in the league, scoring one goal, and been widely praised for his performances for Chelsea.
After his strong start to the season he was recalled to the England team following a long absence, and he was once more impressive in his performance against Spain. His finest moment was a lofted pass to Harry Kane from just outside the box. Kane was then able to turn this into an assist for Sterling to score England’s third goal.
When Barkley arrived at Chelsea there was a great deal of scorn, but just a few months into Sarri’s time with the club things look considerably different.
Thiago Alcantara is a Highly Underrated Midfielder
While Spain were not particularly impressive, Thiago Alcantara was extremely impressive in midfield.
Alcantara was the only player that Pep Guardiola took with him when he left Barcelona for Bayern Munich, and Guardiola would have taken him with him to Manchester City if it weren’t for a clause in his contract that explicitly forbid him from taking Bayern’s players.
Pep Guardiola is widely recognised as one of the best tacticians in the sport, so for him to rate Alcantara so highly suggests that player has a lot to offer. However, the player rarely comes in for praise or recognition.
Alcantara possesses a technique that rivals that of the best players. His ability with close ball control and dictating the play and tempo of a game is first class. He was at the centre of Spain’s set up against England and managed to confuse the England midfielders on numerous occasions. One just needs to look his encounter with Harry Winks to see a level of trickery that is extremely rare.
While it is the flamboyant goal scorers who tend to grab the headlines, the technical masters in the midfield truly deserve more recognition.