Soccer-Spain will play Portugal like it's a final, says Luis Enrique


Soccer Football - UEFA Nations League - Spain Press Conference - Estadio Municipal de Braga, Braga, Portugal - September 26, 2022 Spain coach Luis Enrique during the press conference REUTERS/Pedro Nunes

BRAGA (Reuters) - Spain manager Luis Enrique said his full-strength side will be totally focused when they visit Portugal in the League A-Group 2 decider on Tuesday for a place in the Nations League final four.

With the World Cup less than two months away, the Spain coach said no Monday that they will focus 100% on beating Portugal and there will be no distractions.

"We will face it like a final, there is no other way," Luis Enrique told a news conference ahead of a game Spain must win to reach the semi-finals instead of Portugal.

"Only a victory is worth (anything to) us. It's a final and throughout a career you don't play many, even less with your national team.

"Our best players will play, there will be no tests or rotations. We don't speculate in Spain and on Tuesday we will play to win. Period."

Luis Enrique rowed back on the criticism he dished out to his players after Saturday's 2-1 home defeat by Switzerland.

He said after the game that their performance was "the worse I can remember since I've been coaching this team."

The result knocked last year's finalists off the top of the group with one game left to play, having been leapfrogged by Portugal who breezed past Czech Republic 4-0 away to reach 10 points, two ahead of Spain.

"I sent the wrong message after the game on Saturday. I've seen the first half again and it wasn't that bad," Luis Enrique said.

"It was more (due to the) merit of Switzerland, who were flawless. We lacked precision in the last third, close to their area. That is where we were imprecise, not back in defence.

"I don't think it will happen again but in football it's always possible. The problem is the physical level of Switzerland, which is higher than many. Mistakes are part of soccer."

Portugal manager Fernando Santos, who won the inaugural edition of the Nations League on home soil in 2019, said his team were prepared to face a more aggressive version of Spain than the lacklustre side that lost to the Swiss.

"Of course, we know that Spain are a great team and will come at us with purpose but the only thing that gives us is respect, not in the sense of subservience," he told a news conference on Monday.

"We are expecting the same Spain that we are used to, they have played the same way for the last 20 years.

"We need to focus on what we have to do and do it well."

(Reporting by Fernando Kallas; Editing by Ken Ferris)

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