Thursday, June 13, 2024

UEFA Nations League: Sarabia strikes as Spain squeeze past Switzerland

UEFA Nations League

GENEVA, June 10: Spain registered the first win of their Nations League campaign on Thursday as Pablo Sarabia’s early goal was enough for a 1-0 victory over Switzerland.
Sarabia capitalised on a Swiss error at the back to give Luis Enrique’s side the lead in Geneva and that was enough for the visitors in a game that lacked clear-cut chances.
Spain, though, will be relieved to be up and running, this win coming after they were held to a 1-1 draw at home to Portugal and then needed a 90th-minute goal to salvage a 2-2 draw away at the Czech Republic last weekend.
Switzerland, meanwhile, succumbed to a third consecutive loss in the competition after they were beaten 2-1 away by the Czech Republic before being hammered 4-0 by Portugal, as Cristiano Ronaldo scored twice.
This was their first competitive loss at home in eight years, a run that stretched across 23 matches.
Spain are second in Group A2, two points behind Portugal while Switzerland are last, four points adrift of the Czech Republic.
“I think the balance of the game was very positive and that allowed us to take charge,” said Luis Enrique. “We deserved the victory.”
Spain needed a penalty shoot-out to beat the Swiss in the quarter-finals at last year’s Euro 2020 and there was very little in this contest again, even if Spain were the more dominant side in possession.
Sarabia’s goal came after an error by Eray Comert’s heavy touch was also forced by some aggressive Spanish pressing, the loose ball seized upon by Ferran Torres before Marcos Llorente crossed for Sarabia to poke home in the 13th minute.
Neither side really looked like adding another and Switzerland’s best chance came towards the end, as Haris Seferovic beat the offside trap in the 87th minute and looked to be through, only for Unai Simon to rush out and close the space.
Seferovic still managed to steer the ball across for Breel Embolo but he was 30 yards out and the chipped finish drifted wide.
Too many Nations League matches in World Cup year: Germany’s Flick
Playing four consecutive Nations League matches at the end of a long season in June is too much for a World Cup year, with players to get little rest until the tournament starts in November in Qatar, said Germany coach Hansi Flick on Friday.
The Germans, who played two draws against Italy and England on June 4 and on June 7 in the Nations League A Group 3, face Hungary in Budapest on Saturday before taking on Italy on June 14.
“I agree with that,” said Flick when asked whether the Nations League matches were a strain for players. “Four matches are too many after such a season. You have to take the two years into account.
“We had a pandemic and a lot of matches piled up. We will be having ‘English weeks’ (two-match weeks),” the German told a news conference from their training base in Herzogenaurach in Bavaria.
“There will be almost no pre-season preparation then it’s Bundesliga and Champions League matches every three, four days until the World Cup.”
The Bundesliga starts on Aug. 5 while Europe’s premier club competition’s group stage will kick off on Sept. 6/7 with four teams from the German league taking part.
The German national team is again in action against Hungary on Sept. 23 and travel to England on Sept. 26. The World Cup starts on Nov. 21 in Qatar.
“This should be looked at and we need to ask ourselves how we can offer players a break because that is important,” Flick said.
“UEFA or (world soccer governing body) FIFA should look into these things and take some measures.
“Now we have to prepare well, we have these four games. We accept them. It is tough for the players after a long season. But we accept it because all teams have the same starting points.
“What we are focusing on is to play a good World Cup in November.”
Germany, who suffered a shock first round exit at the 2018 World Cup in Russia for their worst result in the competition in 80 years, are unbeaten under Flick, having won eight and drawn three matches. (AFP/Agencies)