June 25, 2018 / 9:44 PM / 3 months ago

Soccer - Leaky Spain count luck at topping group

KALININGRAD, Russia (Reuters) - Spain may have scraped fortuitously into the World Cup last 16 but they should not be conceding so many goals and must improve, said coach Fernando Hierro after Monday’s 2-2 draw with Morocco.

Soccer Football - World Cup - Group B - Spain vs Morocco - Kaliningrad Stadium, Kaliningrad, Russia - June 25, 2018 Spain coach Fernando Hierro with Iago Aspas after the match REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch

Substitute Iago Aspas scored in stoppage-time to earn Spain a point against the North Africans which gave them top spot in Group B and a knockout game next against hosts Russia.

“Morocco are an excellent team who had lost two matches 1-0, while deserving much more, and this entire group was very tough for us. But despite the challenges we faced, we have emerged on top and we must look at that silver lining and think positively,” Hierro told a news conference.

“Obviously we can improve and there are things we definitely need to work on. We will undoubtedly be self-critical because losing five goals in three matches is not the way forward, and I’ve told the players that.”

With Hierro taking over days before the World Cup after the shock sacking of coach Julen Lopetegui, Spain drew 3-3 with Portugal and beat Iran 1-0 in their other two group games.

“We were lucky to finish first. That was our initial goal and we’ve reached it,” Hierro said. “But now we need to be very demanding with ourselves and have clearly in mind that if we concede goals so easily, it will be very difficult to reach our ultimate goal.”

Isco, who scored the 2010 world champions’ first goal on Monday when he took Andres Iniesta’s pass and crashed it into the roof of the net, echoed his coach’s relief.

“Maybe we weren’t fully focussed from the beginning and perhaps what we’re lacking is greater control in terms of ball possession. That’s something we normally do much better,” he said.

“Overall, I’m happy we finished top of the group, which is what we wanted. Maybe we would have liked different feelings at the end of the match to the ones we had, but in the end we’re satisfied to be through.”

Aspas said the players were initially confused as to where Monday’s result had left them, given Portugal’s simultaneous game against Iran in the same group, and the various permutations possible.

“There was a lot of uncertainty, I didn’t know we had finished top until some team mates told me,” he said.

Writing by Andrew Cawthorne, editing by Ed Osmond

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