KALININGRAD, Russia (Reuters) - Spain need to make urgent and deep reflections after committing multiple errors in Monday’s 2-2 draw with Morocco if they want to mount a serious challenge in the latter stages of the World Cup, captain Sergio Ramos said.
Spain, who still appear to be paying a price for sacking coach Julen Lopetegui on the eve of the tournament, twice went behind to the already-eliminated North African side, with Ramos chief among the culprits in conceding both goals.
They only grabbed a draw, which also saw them clinch top spot in Group B, thanks to a stoppage-time strike from Iago Aspas, which was initially ruled out for offside but later awarded with the help of the video assistant referee (VAR).
The late goal meant Spain avoided a gruelling clash with Uruguay and will instead meet hosts Russia in the Round of 16.
“We got through and won the group, that was the objective, but the game wasn’t good at all for us, it’s a night for everyone in the squad to take a look at themselves, we need to get ourselves into gear,” Ramos told reporters.
“There’s no need to panic, but we do need to evaluate ourselves generally and individually, we can all contribute more and be more balanced defensively and solid so we can make the difference in attack.”
The sense that Spain had been let off the hook against Morocco was reflected on the front covers of the two main sports newspapers AS and Marca, who had identical headlines declaring: “Long Live VAR!”
Spain were one of the favourites for the tournament after blitzing their way through qualifying and outclassing Italy and Argentina in friendlies, but have failed to live up to expectations in Russia, conceding five goals in three games.
The most glaring change since Fernando Hierro replaced the sacked Lopetegui has been their vulnerability at the back, and Ramos said defence was the area Spain most needed to patch up ahead of their next game.
“When you play in a team that causes so much damage in attack you have to be a little more careful, that’s what makes the difference, we need to be more solid, there’s no margin for error now, one mistake will throw you out,” the defender added.
“We prefer to do our talking on the pitch and I hope we can have a great game against Russia, who have been playing at a very high level. I hope we can impose ourselves on them, we need to show who we are as soon as possible.”
Reporting by Richard Martin; Editing by John O'Brien