Jordi Alba leapt to the defence of Spain coach Luis Enrique after La Roja suffered their first World Cup qualifying defeat since 1993 at the hands of Sweden on Thursday.
In what was their first game since losing to Italy on penalties in the Euro 2020 semi-finals, Spain were in Stockholm hoping to go top of Group B on the road to Qatar 2022.
It was initially going well too, as Carlos Soler opened his account less than four minutes into his international debut as he turned in an Alba delivery.
But the Valencia midfielder made an error almost straight after the restart and Alexander Isak netted from 20 yards, meaning Spain’s lead lasted just 63 seconds.
Viktor Claesson got the winner for Sweden in the second half, producing a cleverly disguised finish after inventive play by Dejan Kulusevski, with Spain’s late pressure coming to nothing.
In the end, Spain – who had 75 per cent of the ball – finished with an expected goals value of 2.2 to Sweden’s 0.6, highlighting the lack of decisiveness shown by La Roja in front of goal compared to their hosts.
Alba does not believe a major re-think is required for Luis Enrique, though he accepts Spain now have to be faultless if they are to usurp Sweden atop Group B given they are now two points adrift having played a game more than Janne Andersson’s men.
“As in all matches, when you win or lose, you have to improve,” he told Teledeporte. “The ideas of the coach have been very good since he arrived and the players are taking to it perfectly. We have to improve as in all games, but we are doing a good job.
“It’s clear we still have a lot to do. We have no margin for error. Today we have lost and there are still difficult games to be won.
“We have done things well, they have had their chances, they have put them in and we must continue to improve and do the job that the coach asks of us.
“We didn’t deserve to lose. We had a very good first half, it’s just a shame that after our goal they scored their goal in the next play.
“In the second half they waited for their strengths [counterattacks] and they did very well. We have no margin for error, we must win every game; we had that idea from the beginning, but now more than ever.”
Luis Enrique echoed his left-back’s sentiments and stressed Spain did not play poorly in general, though he rued a lack of success in midfield duels as well as Sweden’s success in transition, with the pace and ability of Kulusevski and Isak routinely threatening the defence.
“It was not a bad game, there was ambition, good positioning, we have created many chances but we have lost many duels in midfield,” he added.
“And with the transitions they have done us a lot of damage. We have lost many duels and they have generated more transitions than in the last ten games.”