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FIFA World Cup 2018: Spain Progressing to Knock-outs is Great, But Must Improve to Survive Pressure: Fernando Morientes

Not often do the likes of Andres Iniesta, Isco and Sergio Ramos to name a few, find themselves associated with questions being raised about the performance of their side, especially not on the biggest stage – the World Cup.

Abhimanyu Sen | News18 Sports

Updated:July 1, 2018, 8:00 AM IST
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FIFA World Cup 2018: Spain Progressing to Knock-outs is Great, But Must Improve to Survive Pressure: Fernando Morientes
File image of Spanish National team. (FIFA Image)

New Delhi: Not often do the likes of Andres Iniesta, Isco and Sergio Ramos to name a few, find themselves associated with questions being raised about the performance of their side, especially not on the biggest stage – the World Cup.

At the 2018 FIFA World Cup, Spain have huffed and puffed their way through the group stage, and even though they topped the group where they had Portugal, Iran and Morocco for company; it could have all gone horribly wrong, just like in 2014.

A veteran of two World Cup campaigns with La Roja, Fernando Morientes believes that the battle hardy senior men in this Spanish set-up need to take the onus and lead the way during difficult times. Morientes, part of the team that lost to hosts South Korea in the quarter-finals in 2002, though is not particularly happy at the way his former team has been performing.

“Spain reaching the knock-out stages was essential and it is good that they have made it, but they are not up to the mark as yet. This form will not get them very far in Russia,” Morientes tells News18Sports over a telephonic conversation.

“The coach (Fernando Hierro) is right when he says the team needs to improve their standards. They need to play together if they want to achieve something,” Morientes says.

In the group stages, Spain shared the spoils against a Cristiano Ronaldo inspired Portugal, before just about beating Iran and finally escaped defeat in the dying minutes against Morocco to set-up a clash with hosts Russia in the round of 16 on Sunday.

A La Liga ambassador in recent days, Morientes accepts that the Julen Lopetegui situation could have been dealt with in nicer manner. But, does not see how and why that should affect the squad in Russia.

“They are all professional footballers. Everyone worked together through qualifying, so for the players to be shocked is expected. But after the initial day or two, they need to focus on what they came to achieve.”

As the conversation veers towards possible problems that the 2010 champions could be facing in their current campaign, the former Real Madrid forward dismisses any talk of a weakness in the centre back pairing of Sergio Ramos and Pique, pointing out that they are among the best and the fastest in the business.

“Ramos and Pique are exceptional, but everyone needs to work harder and help each other more.”

The former Real Madrid man takes the conversation to a part of the field he liked being in – attack, and is all praise for a Madrista from the current lot, Isco the magician who is ever present in Spain’s attack.

“Isco is one of the top players in the world and it is very good for Spain that he is in such good shape during the World Cup. Isco and Diego Costa must come together as the main attacking reference for the team,” says the three-time Champions League winner.

Morientes was recently in India to announce a three team pre-season tournament featuring the Indian Super League side Kerala Blasters and the City Football Group owned Girona FC and Melbourne City FC.

Once a partner in crime with the legendary Raul Gonzalez both at the domestic and international levels, Morientes believes a tournament like this is important for Indian players.

“When you play against sides in the top leagues, it gives you perspective about the standards world over,” he signed off.

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| Edited by: Pratik Sagar
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