Jordi Alba hopes Spain can show more solidity defensively to complement their attacking panache as Fernando Hierro’s side aim to seal a place in the knockout stages of the World Cup against Morocco.
The 2010 winners battled to a 1-0 victory over Iran’s massed defensive ranks in Kazan on Wednesday after playing out a 3-3 thriller with Group B leaders Portugal in their opening game.
Cristiano Ronaldo’s stunning hat-trick in Sochi came despite Spain controlling long passages of play and when Iran emerged from their shell there were some nervous moments, including an equaliser ruled out for offside.
“I think we controlled the match [against Iran], but it is true they generated danger with the play of the disallowed goal and a header at the far post,” Barcelona left-back Alba told Marca.
“In that respect I can understand how those doubts that are so much talked about are generated.
“Honestly, inside the dressing room we did not see it that way. But all opinions are respectable.”
Surprisingly, Alba claimed Iran proved to be tougher opponents than a Ronaldo-inspired Portugal.
“Portugal came to us three times: a dubious penalty, a foul that Cristiano put away incredibly and a mistake [by goalkeeper David de Gea],” he added.
“We were totally superior to Portugal and we deserved much more than them. But this is a World Cup.
“People may think that Iran are not at that level, but they made life more complicated for us than Portugal.
“We have four points, which is the important thing we have to look at. You always have to correct things, but this is a World Cup and we are seeing what happens every day in almost every game.”
— Selección Española de Fútbol (@SeFutbol) June 23, 2018
Morocco have only pride to play for and Herve Renard’s side have every reason to feel aggrieved over their early exit, having created ample chances during each of their 1-0 losses – failing to turn them into goals.
“We know we are eliminated but, well, we will try to stay with a good taste in our mouths for all the people who are supporting us, not only here but throughout the world,” Real Madrid full-back Achraf Hakimi told reporters.
“We will try to do our best and give a joy to the fans.”
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Spain – Diego Costa
Following a nightmare campaign in 2014 and watching Euro 2016 from the outside looking in, powerhouse striker Costa has finally established himself as the leader of La Roja’s attack and has three goals from his first two outings at Russia 2018.
Morocco – Ayoub El Kaabi
A prolific goalscorer who has enjoyed a rapid rise from Morocco’s lower leagues over the past couple of years, El Kaabi has one more chance to bring his finishing prowess to the biggest stage having failed to fire in one start and a substitute appearance.
KEY OPTA FACTS
– Spain have won three of their four World Cup matches against African opponents (L1), scoring 11 goals and never fewer than two per game.
– Morocco have now been eliminated at the group stage in four of their five World Cup campaigns, only progressing in the 1986 tournament.
– The Atlas Lions have fired in more shots than their opposition in each of their last six World Cup defeats (v Portugal and Iran in 2018; Brazil in 1998; Netherlands, Saudi Arabia and Belgium in 1994).
– Diego Costa has scored nine goals in his last nine international starts for Spain.
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