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06 June 2023

Spain beat Bosnia after Nations League heartache

Photo: AFP


Spain responded to their Nations League disappointment by beating Bosnia 1-0 on Sunday but an unconvincing victory will have done little to lift the mood.

Luis Enrique's side needed 21-year-old debutant Brais Mendez to score the only goal of a scrappy game at Estadio Gran Canaria, in which neither side would have been unfairly represented by a stalemate.

Spain already knew their hopes of progressing to the Nations League finals were over after England snatched top spot in Group 4 following a last-gasp win at Wembley over Croatia.

A thrilling conclusion, which would have sent Spain through had Croatia held on for a point, was a feather in the cap for the inaugural tournament and came in stark contrast to this rather underwhelming friendly a few hours later.

Luis Enrique named a heavily-rotated line-up, in which only Isco and Dani Ceballos survived from Thursday's defeat by Croatia in Zagreb.

If he was hoping for fresh impetus and enthusiasm, following a topsy-turvy start to his time as coach, he might have left disappointed.

Harry Kane's late winner against Croatia had the Spanish press swooning for a striker of his calibre and another erratic performance from Alvaro Morata hardly promoted the Chelsea striker's cause.

Sergio Ramos, out of form this season, was injured and unavailable, opening the door to Real Sociedad's Diego Llorente and Espanyol's Mario Hermoso to stake their claim as the absent captain's regular partner. Neither made a misstep but they were rarely tested.

Luis Enrique also chose not to select Manchester United goalkeeper David de Gea for the first time. Chelsea's Kepa Arrizabalaga came in and Isco was named captain.

Bosnia, with promotion from League B secured in the Nations League, came in unbeaten in nine matches under Robert Prosinecki but were without their injured playmaker Miralem Pjanic.

Spain's master playmaker David Silva was on the pitch with his son before kick-off as the midfielder, who retired from international football in the summer, was presented with a shirt to honour his 125 caps.

Edin Visca tested Kepa's nerves with an early shot but otherwise dominated possession early on, with Marco Asensio and Isco both releasing efforts at goal.

Isco continued to be his team's most likely source of a goal but another drive was saved by Ibrahim Sehic before half-time.

Morata failed to connect with Isco's whipped cross, fired over and then stabbed wide after Asensio's shot was parried into his path.

In between, Bosnia could have taken the lead but the sliding Rade Krunic arrived just too late to divert Visca's shot across goal.

Bosnia looked to be gaining momentum, just as Spain struck. Jose Gaya's cross was collected by Isco at the back post and his shot was pushed out by Sehic, only for Brais to finish off the rebound. Bosnia never looked like finding an equaliser.