(Jordi Blanco, correspondent in Barcelona) – Spain debuted in the qualifying phase of the World Cup in Qatar with an unexpected draw in Granada against Greece, which was enough for an orderly defense and a bit of luck in attack (a penalty more than debatable) to win a point that few would have bet on before starting the game.
Morata advanced to Luis Enrique’s team in the first half and equalized Bakasetas from eleven meters shortly after starting the second to sentence that 1-1 that did not move again despite the broad Hispanic dominance, the changes of the Spanish coach, of the debuts of Pedri and Bryan Gil and a harassment as absolute as it was disorderly in the final stretch that led to a stumbling block that was not definitive but worrying.
Without Barcelona players in the starting eleven, a very unusual event but which had already been repeated twice since 2018, Luis Enrique opted for a markedly offensive line-up that missed a certain organization. Rodri and Canales took the baton in the absence of Busquets in the center of the field in a team where the young Eric García and the veteran Sergio Ramos shared the responsibility of taking the ball from behind, but which reached the line of three Greek quarters the jam became continued.
Thus it took Spain half an hour to break the Helena wall and it did so, unable to successfully solve combination plays in short or interned on the wing, through an excellent pass filtered above Koke for the arrival of Álvaro Morata, who controlled in the race with his chest and surprised Vlachodimos with a magnificent shot from point-blank range that was a relief to his team.
A relief on the scoreboard, not in the game, which maintained the same trend, nor, either, in the plan of the Greek team: crouched back, waiting for some counterattack to scare Unai Simón and sighing to reach the last third of the game with real options to take something positive.
Understanding the need to mature the clash and calling for patience to find where to break the orderly Greek defense, Spain appeared with the same dominant spirit in the second half … without suspecting what was coming.
Ten minutes of the same monologue led to a fight against Helena and a rejection inside the area by Íñigo Martínez (who had replaced Sergio Ramos at half-time) who ended up with his foot hitting Masouras’s knee to be converted by Italian Marco Guida into a penalty. Bakasetas did not fail, he beat Unai Simón and, suddenly
Luis Enrique’s men got doubts, nerves and, as time went by, urgencies.
The Spanish coach quickly reacted, giving the alternative to Pedri and Bryan Gil, both debutants and who entered in place of Dani Olmo and Canales with the challenge of increasing the rhythm, somewhat tiring, and breaking the Greek defensive order. It was not achieved from the beginning and Luis Enrique had to give another turn of the screw, going to the verticality in the pass of Thiago and the speed of Oyarzabal to face an offensive without quarter in the final part of an increasingly uncomfortable match.
Spain tried anyway. On the one hand and on the other, in the center, trying to combine Thiago and Pedri in search of Morata, and with long game changes to find holes in the Greek defense, but despite the electricity that Bryan Gil gave to the game and From a dominance to an overwhelming Greece, it knew how to maintain a strong defense that ended up giving it the prize.
And the first disappointment on the way to a World Cup that, it was shown, will not be at all comfortable for Luis Enrique’s selection.