In the final minutes of training prior to the match against Switzerland, Luis Enrique made an aside with Unai Simón in the opposite goal in which the rest of the internationals, except Ansu Fati, rehearsed shots on goal. The Athletic goalkeeper practiced medium movements with the foot that the young Barça striker had to receive. A day later, as against Portugal and the Czech Republic, Unai Simón also assumed the starting role against the Swiss.
Sommer, Widmer, Ricardo Rodríguez (Djibril Sow, min. 88), Manuel Akanji (F. Frei, min. 78), Eray Cömert, Xhaka, Freuler, Michel Aebischer (Noah Okafor, min. 63), Embolo, Zuber (Renato Steffen, min. 62) and Shaqiri (Seferovic, min. 79)
Unai Simón, Llorente, Pau Torres, Alba, Azpilicueta, Marcos Llorente (Carlos Soler, min. 79), Gavi (Koke, min. 72), Busquets, Sarabia (Dani Olmo, min. 62), Morata (Marco Asensio, min. 72) and Ferran Torres
goals 0-1 min. 12: Sarabia.
Yellow cards Shaqiri (min. 58), Manuel Akanji (min. 66), Seferovic (min. 88) and Djibril Sow (min. 91)
At the end of the game, Luis Enrique’s analysis focused on reinforcing the importance of having won over the game played and on the dogmatic defense of what he demands of his goalkeepers. Unai Simón had two risk actions in two outings in which he did not measure the times well to shorten the Swiss advance and he was not skilled with the ball either. The two scares caused the coach from Gijón to answer for them before the press. “It doesn’t make me nervous. Nor Robert Sánchez and David Raya. I have three goalkeepers who can play the ball from behind”, defended the Spanish coach. Luis Enrique had not been seen to categorize in that way with the virtuosity of the footwork of the three goalkeepers of the team. At the time of the first trio made up of De Gea, Kepa and Pau López, he never spoke so emphatically about their abilities to contribute to the team’s ball output. The three have ended up out of the calls gradually. Unai Simón’s own assault on ownership is already two years away, in a friendly with the Netherlands (1-1) in Amsterdam. That night at the Johan Cruyff Arena, Unai Simón starred in a couple of actions that Luis Enrique himself described as “exaggerated”, but praised the decision of the goalkeeper to whom he had just handed over De Gea for his decision to continue risking . In addition to his qualities to stop, this has been the reason that has kept Unai Simón in the starting lineup of the national team. Like when he competed with De Gea and Kepa, he is the worst of the three with his feet, but he is the one with the most courage.
Modern football has seen many teams start the game from behind. Never had so much value been given to goalkeepers being the first passer. Luis Enrique has become a champion of this trend. “The goalkeeper has to generate the first superiority. And Unai Simón, in that, is an expert. It is that I tell him that he should do it. I don’t know any other way to go out playing and I don’t want to learn it either”, stressed the coach of La Roja in the press room of the Geneva stadium. “Ah, that he makes a mistake, well like Pepe, Lucas, Manolo… I understand that whoever doesn’t like that gets nervous, but I like him to play like that”, he continued.
In the explanations that were given in the federation when Robert Sánchez and David Raya were summoned for the first time, their ability to play with their feet had a lot of weight. Due to their emigration to English football at a young age, both were two great unknowns to the average fan, despite the fact that both defended goals for Premier League teams. Sánchez, at Brighton, and Raya, at Brentford, also fulfilled another of the requirements demanded by Luis Enrique: to act as a free man to cut the balls that the rivals filter behind the back of the advanced defense that Luis Enrique poses. This characteristic is part of the pattern with which the sports management works, with José Francisco Molina at the head, to recruit future talents who can defend the Spanish goal in the lower categories and in the absolute. For Luis Enrique, Unai Simón is also the most determined to carry out this function.
The goalkeeper with Luis Enrique must intercept the rival’s game and also set up his own. The position has been elevated more than ever to outfield player status because there’s only one reason to hit a pitch. “When they put pressure on us and the rival does it very well, they can hit a ball up high; and we change the pressure. We are good there too. But it is not our identity. Our identity is to get the ball played. You have to have personality to play”, ditch Luis Enrique.
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