Even though Spain had crashed out of their last World Cup on penalties and missed their previous five spot-kicks, coach Luis Enrique was never in doubt about Friday’s shootout against Switzerland in the Euro 2020 quarter-final.
“That was the most tranquil penalty shootout I’ve ever been through because we’d done all our homework, all our practice, and there was nothing left for the staff and me to do,” he said after Spain squeezed through 3-1 in the shootout.
“We all had huge faith in (goalkeeper) Unai (Simon), and after that all we could do is watch it and accept the result.”
His team hardly made it easy, Sergio Busquets and Rodri both missing.
But Simon saved from Switzerland’s Manuel Akanji and Fabian Schar while Ruben Vargas hammered over the bar, leaving Spain’s Mikel Oyarzabal to notch the the decisive penalty and book Spain’s place in the final four.
“People say penalties are a lottery but it’s not like that at all,” Luis Enrique added at his news conference.
“Everything comes into play – the fitness, the ability to deal with pressure and the goalkeepers. It’s impossible to coach them but when you win it feels very good indeed.”
Remo Freuler was sent off for Switzerland in the 77th minute but Spain failed to make their numerical advantage count and the score remained 1-1 after extra time.
They finished with 27 attempts on goal, including Gerard Moreno’s three misses in extra time, and Luis Enrique knows his players will have to produce a much-improved display in two more matches if they are to lift the trophy.
“At 1-1 the game became dangerous as we didn’t generate enough chances,” he said.
“They’re a very well-drilled side. The sending off changed the game totally. I think it could have been a more level contest with 11 v 11. But we deserved to win against 10 men.”
Spain now face Italy at Wembley on Tuesday in a re-match of the 2012 final.
“I’ve said from the outset that we are one of the seven or eight teams which, no exaggeration, could win this trophy – now we’re one of four. And that’s fantastic,” Luis Enrique said.
“Now we’re only focused on getting into the finals.”