Inigo Martinez’s rash tackle handed Greece a penalty as Spain slumped to a 1-1 draw at Los Carmenes on Thursday.
Spain stumbled in the very first game of their 2022 FIFA World Cup qualifying campaign, after being held to a 1-1 draw with Greece on Thursday. It was a disappointing result for the hosts at Los Carmenes, as they struggled to impose their authority against an opponent that put their bodies on the line.
While the Spaniards did create opportunities and dominated possession, they failed to convert it into clear cut chances or even trouble goalkeeper Odysseas Vlachodimos for the most part. It left them quite frustrated even at half-time, although Alvaro Morata’s well-taken goal in the 33rd minute did break the deadlock.
Spain were somehow even more wasteful in the second half, failing to really test the Greek goalkeeper. It was only a matter of time before the opposition got back into the back and they did that through Inigo Martinez’s rash tackle that forced the referee to offer a penalty just before the hour mark. Captain Anastasios Bakasetas made no mistake converting the spot-kick, thus levelling the score.
Martinez, though, disputed the referee’s decision and voiced concerns over the lack of VAR in these fixtures, shortly after the game. Nevertheless, his Spain side struggled to unsettle the Greek defence throughout the remainder of the game and here, at The Hard Tackle, we will take a closer look at the Spanish players following their disappointing draw in Granada this midweek.
Unai Simon: 6/10
Unai Simon had nothing to do all game as Greece failed to attempt a single shot on goal from open play. As such, the Athletic Bilbao goalkeeper mostly had to just redistribute possession during certain phases in the build-up. He could not keep out the rather impressive strike from Bakasetas from the penalty spot, though.
Marcos Llorente: 6.5/10
Marcos Llorente operated in the right-back slot, ahead of Pedro Porro. It seems Luis Enrique’s decision to pick just one right-back has backfired, although Llorente showed no signs of weakness operating in the defensive role. He offered constant attacking support, using his athleticism to cover the entirety of the flanks. Would have preferred a bit more penetration in the final third.
Eric Garcia: 7.5/10
Eric Garcia was given the nod ahead of Inigo Martinez at the heart of the Spain backline. The Barcelona-linked youngster fared well in defence, offering a lot of ball-progression in the build-up. He was solid defensively as well, recycling the ball multiple times while also threading a host of diagonal falls forward, in what can be described as a flawless performance as a centre-back.
📊| Eric García vs Greece.
• 129 Touches.
• 117/120 Accurate Passes. (98%)
• 7/7 Accurate Long Balls.
• 2/2 Duels Won.
• 0 Fouls.
• 1 Tackle.
• 3 Interceptions.
• 7 Ball Recoveries.
It was just his 3rd start this year. What a player Barça are signing for free! 🌟 pic.twitter.com/n81P9H3eU8
— Barça Buzz (@Barca_Buzz) March 25, 2021
Sergio Ramos: 7/10
Despite the fitness scares, Sergio Ramos was given the start by Luis Enrique in central defence alongside Garcia. The veteran centre-back’s experience and leadership were vital in keeping the Greek attack completely at bay, with the player himself also appearing to be a vital cog in the build-up play. He was hooked off at half-time, though, in light of his recent struggles with fitness and injuries.
Jose Gaya: 6.5/10
Operating ahead of Jordi Alba, Jose Gaya also offered the attacking support one could expect from the left-back. His more technical nature made it easier for Spain to transition the ball out from the back. However, the Valencia star simply could not add that creative x-factor in the final third, much like Llorente on the opposite flank.
Operating at the base of Spain’s 4-3-3, Rodri was tasked with the responsibility of offering stability and composure in the middle of the park. He did his job well, using his imposing figure and athleticism to not only screen the backline but also provide tempo to his team’s approach play. Recycled possession on multiple occasion, too, but he will be disappointed with the result.
Koke had an eventful game for the most part, with his creativity and work-ethic playing an integral role in Spain’s approach play. The Atletico Madrid captain also deserves credit for supplying that inch-perfect ball to grab the assist for Morata’s opener. The midfielder, though, had a great chance to score and may have preferred a bit more creativity from his game overall.
Koke balling with Spain while being captain, tears in my eyes
— Johannes (@JohannesATM) March 25, 2021
Sergio Canales: 5/10
Sergio Canales operated alongside Koke and Rodri in the Spanish midfield. The Real Betis playmaker did not struggle in getting involved in the proceedings, but it was the lack of creativity that made it difficult for the home side to cause problems for the Greek defence. He was subbed off midway through the second half by Enrique.
Ferran Torres: 6/10
Another player who looked decent but failed to create that burst of magic to wreak havoc in the Greek backline, Ferran Torres was usually involved in the game down the right-hand side. He did provided multiple key passes in the final third, but it was simply not enough to make a difference to the proceedings. Must improve in the next match.
Dani Olmo: 6/10
Dani Olmo started on the left-hand side, hoping to use his ball-progression, creativity and dynamism to get the better of the opposition. The RB Leipzig star, however, simply could not do enough to unsettle the Greeks and was duly replaced midway through the second half by Luis Enrique.
Alvaro Morata: 8/10
Alvaro Morata was one of Spain’s top performers on the night, offering a lot of influence in the number nine role. He worked hard in the final third, often looking to make incisive runs in behind the backline, which eventually led to his well-taken opener around the half-hour mark. Unfortunately, the Juventus striker was bereft of service for the most part of the game.
6 – Since 2004, only David Silva (8), David Villa (8) and Fernando Torres (7) have scored more goals in the World Cup Qualifiers for the Spanish National Team than Álvaro Morata (6). Scorer. pic.twitter.com/0N769P4wPp
— OptaJose (@OptaJose) March 25, 2021
Inigo Martinez: 2/10
Inigo Martinez came on for Ramos at the start of the second half. He was culpable of conceding the penalty that allowed Greece a way back into the game. A poor impact from the centre-back.
Bryan Gil: 6.5/10
Bryan Gil made his debut around the 65th minute mark when he replaced the ineffective Canales. The youngster certainly offered more dynamism in the Spain attack, although it was not enough to make an impact on the proceedings.
Thiago Alcantara: 6/10
Thiago replaced Olmo in the 65th minute to add more stability and control in the middle of the park. The Liverpool star should start ahead of Canales in the next game.
Mikel Oyarzabal: 5/10
A late replacement for Torres. Did not offer much during the final phase of the game.