Spain are set to face Japan in their final FIFA World Cup group stage clash on Thursday, December 1, with the knowledge that a draw would secure them a seat in the knockout stages. However, fans are concerned that manager Luis Enrique has chosen to include Nico Williams in the starting lineup following his poor showing in the 1-1 draw against Germany.
The Athletic Bilbao winger seems to have done enough to impress Enrique ahead of the Japan clash. However, fans were expecting him to stay on the bench, and his inclusion has seen them take to Twitter to slam the manager's decision.
Here are a few tweets:
Spain need to secure all three points to finish as group winners in FIFA World Cup Group E
Spain are sitting in first place with four points in hand, while second-placed Japan and third-placed Croatia have three points apiece. While Luis Enrique's men have nearly qualified for the FIFA World Cup knockout round, securing the top slot would mean they would face 2018 finalists Croatia, who finished second in Group F
A second-place finish, however, would pit La Roja against underdogs Morocco in the Round of 16, but Luis Enrique has warned his team against speculating. Getting a point against Japan will put them in second place, but the tactician does not think that trying to manipulate a draw would benefit the team.
Speaking ahead of the game (via The Guardian), Enrique explained that sudden events could see Spain eliminated within seconds:
“We have reflected on it, but from a professional point of view, imagine that we speculate. ‘OK, we want to be second, that’s in our interests.’ We get to the 95th minute and in both games it’s 0-0, 0-0, [thinking:] ‘Everything’s going great.’
"And then Costa Rica go and score and Japan score. And in 15 seconds you’re out because you have been speculating for 90 minutes. Or the other way round: Germany are winning 5-0 and we’re drawing and that will do and then Japan score and you’re out."
The tactician will hope that his team can take his words into consideration, play their best against Japan, and secure a finish at the top of their FIFA World Cup group.
He revealed that the plan was to beat every team they faced, rather than hope for easier opponents He said:
“Elite sport doesn’t let you speculate. To win a World Cup, you have to beat everyone, or everyone you face. So that’s what we’re going to try to do.”
At the time of writing, Spain are leading 1-0 against Japan in their final FIFA World Cup group stage game.