Olivier Giroud scored a double as France beat Sweden in the Nations League but was not spurred on by recent criticism because he is "used to being heckled".

In a surprise 2-0 loss in a friendly with Finland last week, Giroud only completed three more passes than goalkeeper Steve Mandanda, who was the only France player to have fewer touches than the Chelsea striker.

Giroud was dropped for Saturday's 1-0 victory over Portugal but struck twice in a 4-2 win over Sweden on Tuesday, taking his tally for Les Bleus to 44 – seven shy of Thierry Henry's all-time record.

The 34-year-old tucked home a cutback from Marcus Thuram after Viktor Claesson's opener and scored an excellent diving header following Benjamin Pavard's volley to turn the game around.

Robin Quaison pulled one back for Sweden in the 88th minute but, after they pushed goalkeeper Robin Olsen up for a free-kick in the hope of snatching a point to retain their League A status, Kingsley Coman hit them on the break to consign them to relegation.

"We had a lot of regrets and frustration, also on an individual level, against Finland. We wanted to learn from that match, and we were able to react against Portugal by dominating and deserving the victory," Giroud told M6.

"This gathering is positive after this last match. Even if everything is not perfect, there is still a feeling of satisfaction.

"There was no feeling of revenge for me. I'm used to being heckled, it's the story of my career. It gives me more strength. I have no problem with that."

Didier Deschamps reiterated his suggestion that Giroud should look to leave Chelsea, where he has just started one game this season, to get more regular football in the build-up to next year's European Championship.

With his double at the Stade de France, Giroud ensured he will end 2020 as Les Bleus' highest scoring player for the fifth time in the past six years.

"The situation in March may not be the same as it is today. But, between the young players who came and who we were able to see – and it is important that they have playing time – and the old ones who are still there, some may be in difficulty like Olivier Giroud," said Deschamps.

"Of course, he has to deal with his situation, psychologically and physically, but today he's still there and he's scored two more.

"You are going to tell me that he won points and Anthony Martial lost some, but no, it's the France team that wins points. Some are starting, and others came as substitutes. I have different options. I have top-level players and in terms of the mood that's perfect."

Kingsley Coman wrapped up a 4-2 win for France in the Nations League on Tuesday as he punished a Sweden side who were chasing an equaliser to retain League A status.

Sweden sent goalkeeper Robin Olsen up for a late free-kick as they tried to salvage a draw that would have relegated Croatia, who lost 3-2 to Portugal, but Dejan Kulusevski's delivery was cleared and Coman slotted into the empty net on the break.

Viktor Claesson had put the visitors in front at the Stade de France inside four minutes, but Olivier Giroud equalised before Benjamin Pavard turned the game around in the 36th minute.

Substitute Kylian Mbappe teed up another for Giroud just 70 seconds into his return from injury, before Coman killed the game with the final kick after Robin Quaison's 88th-minute strike gave Sweden hope.

Dominik Livakovic's calamitous late error gifted Portugal a 3-2 victory as Fernando Santos' side ended their Nations League campaign on a high note but Croatia avoided relegation from Group A3.

Croatia, reduced to 10 men early in the second half when Marko Rog received a second booking, seemed to be heading for a draw in Split on Tuesday.

Mateo Kovacic opened the scoring in the 29th minute before curling in from the edge of the box after goals from Ruben Dias and Joao Felix had put Portugal ahead.

But Livakovic endured a 90th-minute nightmare, fumbling a corner to the feet of Dias, who completed his double to snatch the points, yet Croatia avoid the drop due to France's win over Sweden.

Diogo Jota and Cristiano Ronaldo went close as Portugal turned the screw, but the visitors had Dias to thank when he blocked Mario Pasalic's goal-bound effort at the other end.

Yet Dias could not prevent Croatia from opening the scoring – Kovacic lashing home at the second attempt after having his initial shot from Pasalic's cross blocked.

Portugal should have been two down eight minutes later, only for Josip Juranovic to head wide from inside the six-yard box, and Danilo Pereira would have made Croatia pay if not for Livakovic's instinctive stop.

But Portugal had their equaliser eight minutes into the second half.

Rog was shown a second yellow card for a foul on Ronaldo, whose free-kick was parried out by Livakovic and Ruben Semedo squared for Dias to add insult to injury by prodding in.

Portugal were in front on the hour-mark, with Joao Felix on hand to tuck in from Jota's lay off, yet Croatia defied their numerical disadvantage to hit back when Kovacic curled a low strike into the bottom-left corner.

Bernardo Silva squandered a golden chance to win it for Portugal, but his blushes were swiftly sparred by Livakovic.

The goalkeeper charged out to claim Joao Moutinho's corner, only to drop it after making contact with Dejan Lovren, enabling Dias to snatch victory.

Ferran Torres scored a hat-trick as Spain secured a place at next year's Nations League Finals with a 6-0 demolition of Germany on Tuesday. 

Alvaro Morata, Rodri and Mikel Oyarzabal were also on the scoresheet in Seville as Joachim Low suffered the heaviest loss of his 14 years in charge. 

Germany needed only a point to secure top spot in Group A4 but found themselves 3-0 down by half-time, Spain delivering their best performance under Luis Enrique despite losing Sergio Ramos and Sergio Canales to hamstring problems. 

Manchester City's Torres added two more after the break before substitute Oyarzabal piled further pressure on Low, whose position will look increasingly perilous following this chastening defeat. 

Morata could hardly believe his luck when he was allowed a free header at the far post from a deep corner by Fabian Ruiz, on as an early substitute for the injured Canales, to open the scoring. 

Germany had struggled to get into the game and were fortunate not to be 2-0 down when Morata turned in Torres' cross only to be denied by a contentious offside call. 

Manuel Neuer, who became Germany's most-capped goalkeeper as he made his 96th appearance, did superbly to turn Torres' strike around the post as Spain once more got in down the right. 

However, he could do nothing to stop Torres smashing a rebound home from six yards after Dani Olmo's header had come back off the crossbar. 

It was 3-0 to an utterly dominant Spain five minutes later as a corner from Koke found an unmarked red shirt, this time in the form of Rodri, who glanced a brilliant header out of Neuer's reach. 

Ramos went off before the break after hurting his hamstring when sending a long pass forward, but his absence did little to shake Spain from their rhythm. 

With Germany pushing for a route back into the match, La Roja sprung a counter-attack down the left and Jose Gaya squared for Torres to steady himself and smash home number four. 

Torres secured his treble with 19 minutes to play, sweeping a low shot past a helpless Neuer as Spain once again cut the visiting defence to ribbons, and Oyarzabal was gifted an easy finish when Gaya prodded the ball into his path.

 

 

Dominik Livakovic's calamitous late error gifted Portugal a 3-2 victory as Fernando Santos' side ended their Nations League campaign on a high note but Croatia avoided relegation from Group A3.

Croatia, reduced to 10 men early in the second half when Marko Rog received a second booking, seemed to be heading for a draw in Split on Tuesday.

Mateo Kovacic opened the scoring in the 29th minute before curling in from the edge of the box after goals from Ruben Dias and Joao Felix had put Portugal ahead.

But Livakovic endured a 90th-minute nightmare, fumbling a corner to the feet of Dias, who completed his double to snatch the points, yet Croatia avoid the drop due to France's win over Sweden.

Sergio Ramos suffered an injury during the first half of the Nations League match between Spain and Germany in Seville. 

The Real Madrid captain hurt his hamstring after playing a long pass forward and was replaced by Eric Garcia 43 minutes in. 

Spain had already seen Sergio Canales go off with a similar complaint just 12 minutes into the contest. 

Despite the injury issues, Luis Enrique's side led 3-0 at half-time in the decisive Group A4 match through goals from Alvaro Morata, Ferran Torres and Rodri. 

Any injury to Ramos would be a major concern for Madrid head coach Zinedine Zidane ahead of a challenging run of fixtures

The champions return to LaLiga action at Villarreal on Saturday before they head to Inter for matchday four of the Champions League group stage. 

Madrid then face a further four games, including clashes with Shakhtar Donetsk, Sevilla and Borussia Monchengladbach, before the scheduled derby with Atletico Madrid on December 13. 

Ramos missed the reverse fixture against Shakhtar on October 21, a match Madrid lost 3-2 after falling 3-0 down in the first half at Estadio Alfredo Di Stefano.

There was further bad news for Zidane in Paris too, as another of his centre-back options in Raphael Varane was withdrawn at half-time during France's meeting with Sweden.

Les Bleus boss Didier Deschamps told M6: "[Lucas] Hernandez and Varane have come off because they have small problems."

Gareth Southgate says England produced their best statistical performance against a big nation despite losing 2-0 to Belgium last time out.

The Nations League defeat in Leuven has prompted calls for Southgate to ditch his 3-4-3 system ahead of Wednesday's home clash with Iceland.

But the England boss insisted the formation had produced a better performance then the result suggested, comparing it favourably to the famous 3-2 away win over Spain in October 2018.

Asked if his system was too conservative, Southgate said on Tuesday: "Well, I think we were very exciting to watch against Ireland four or five days ago and we were very exciting to watch against Belgium.

"Statistically, our job is to analyse games during and after them. There is a coaching eye on how we have played and then we look at the data.

"[Against Belgium] that is as good a performance as we have had against any of the big nations.

"The interesting thing is there is a perception we didn't start the game well. But in the first half an hour we had more attempts on goal than Belgium; possession, they had a tiny bit more around 52 per cent, but we had the more dangerous attacks and more shots on goal.

"I understand once they were ahead in the latter stages of the game maybe they sat back a bit, but that's partly because we pressed well and they couldn't get out.

"So that performance [against Belgium] was in actual fact a contrast to Spain which everyone is talking about. That [Spain] match was our worst performance statistically."

Southgate added: "There were other things we did well that night [against Spain], we played with great endeavour and we counter-attacked really well, but the perception of that game is not the reality.

"As a coaching team we have to look at if you perform to those levels [like we did against Spain] every week, you lose games. If you perform to the game we did against Belgium, you'll win games.

"So it's a fascinating debate because the perception after a defeat, there's always a narrative and a story. Whichever way we play there will be strengths and weaknesses to the team.

"We need to find the best path, keep improving it, but [three at the back] can be a system that has flexibility, can be adaptable based on the profile of the players.

"That's what we've done for the last few games and then we'll get to this end of this camp and review everything before March."

Comparing the performances

England racked up 16 shots against Belgium compared to only five versus Spain, according to Opta data.

Nine of those attempts came from inside the box in Belgium, but only three of their efforts ended up on target, the same total as their miserable haul in Seville.

England therefore paid the price for poor finishing, but Southgate was right to suggest they were a much greater attacking threat.

The Three Lions also had much more of the ball against Belgium - 55 per cent compared to just 27 per cent in the Spain win.

They also attempted over double the amount of passes (589 to 283) and achieved a greater accuracy (87 per cent to 77).

As well as with the attacking and creative data, Southgate also seems to be vindicated with a look at the defensive numbers. England restricted Belgium to eight shots and only three of those were on target.

Despite beating Spain, England allowed 24 attempts on their goal with six on target.

England's best formation

While Southgate countered the suggestion a back four would be more suitable and talked up the virtues of the current approach, the data is less kind to him when it comes to formations.

Eight of England's 10 defeats since he took charge have come from only 22 games when playing three at the back.

Twenty-four matches with four in defence have resulted in 17 wins, five draws and only two losses. Two games with five at the back, meanwhile, both ended in draws.

Wales captain Gareth Bale was concerned he could have contracted coronavirus after discovering two Republic of Ireland players tested positive following their clash on Sunday.

Bale's Tottenham team-mate Matt Doherty and Stoke winger James McClean returned positive COVID-19 tests after a 1-0 Nations League win for Wales at Cardiff City Stadium.

Doherty, who will now miss Spurs’ huge Premier League game at home to Manchester City on Saturday, had an embrace with Bale after the full-time whistle, while the pair reportedly swapped shirts when they talked after leaving the pitch.

No Wales players have tested positive ahead of their match against Finland on Wednesday, but Bale admitted he was worried the virus may have been passed on ahead of a key period of games.

Asked about his contact with Doherty, on-loan Spurs forward Bale said: "It's a slight concern for everyone when you have been playing someone [who has tested positive] and in close contact on the field, but maybe not long enough to catch it.

"Obviously you’re a bit wary, but it is good news that everyone has come back and tested negative and now we can concentrate on the game.

"Me and Ben Davies [Wales and Spurs defender] spoke to him [Doherty] briefly and I think he is doing fine, he’s got mild symptoms.

"Hopefully he recovers fine, doesn't have any problems and will be back playing as soon as possible."

Bale says the Football Association of Wales deserves great credit for the protocols it has put in place.

He said: "There's only three or four to a table, making sure we are socially distanced, going at different times to get food, wearing gloves to serve our food, no sharing rooms anymore.

"They have gone to great measures to make sure we are safe. It is important to take it seriously."

Eden Hazard will have a "fabulous" 2021 after missing out on Belgium's final games of this year with coronavirus, according to Roberto Martinez.

Since completing a €100million move to Real Madrid in June 2019, Hazard has been beset by injury problems and limited to just 25 appearances in all competitions.

He has scored two goals and supplied four assists for Los Blancos, after a final campaign at Chelsea in which he registered 16 goals and 15 assists in the Premier League alone.

A muscle injury meant his first outing of 2020-21 did not come until October 27 and three games into his return he tested positive for coronavirus.  

Hazard was again positive for COVID-19 at the weekend and will consequently miss Belgium's crunch Nations League Group A2 clash with Denmark.

However, Martinez is confident the 29-year-old will soon return to his previous heights and play an important role for Madrid and Belgium.

"Eden really wanted to join us and play the last three games in 2020," said Martinez on Tuesday.

"He has had a really complicated year. I am convinced that 2021 will be a fabulous year for Eden Hazard, and also the national team."

Goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois added: "It's a shame he'll miss this match, but we have enough quality to win without him.

"The group has more experience, we know what we have to improve. We have one of the best teams in the world."

Martinez will also be without the suspended duo Axel Witsel and Thomas Meunier for the meeting in Heverlee, where a point will be enough for Belgium to qualify for the Nations League Finals.

"We are not going to focus on the absentees. I am looking at the players that will have the chance to put themselves forward, to seize an opportunity," said Martinez.

"I have many solutions to compensate for the absences of Wistel and Meunier. There is Thomas Foket, Thorgan Hazard and Nacer Chadli among others.

"Denmark are a very strong team but we want to participate in the Finals so we will do everything to win. We are not going to aim for a draw. We have to win for the fans and to end the year on a good note."

Belgium missed out on a place in the inaugural Nations League Finals in 2019 after losing their final group game against Switzerland 5-2.

Courtois insists they have learned from that performance and know they cannot take Denmark lightly.

"We know their strengths and weaknesses. If they win, they will quality. We have to show intensity from the first minute to the last, be careful and focused. We will not easily win this game 4-0," said Courtois.

"We had relaxed a bit that day [against Switzerland], it's true. We learned from that match. We are ready for Wednesday."

Wales captain Gareth Bale was concerned he could have contracted coronavirus after discovering two Republic of Ireland players tested positive following their clash on Sunday.

Bale's Tottenham team-mate Matt Doherty and Stoke winger James McClean returned positive COVID-19 tests after a 1-0 Nations League win for Wales at Cardiff City Stadium.

No Wales players have tested positive ahead of their match against Finland on Wednesday, but Bale admitted he was worried the virus may have been passed on.

"It's a slight concern for everyone when you have been playing someone [who has tested positive] and in close contact on the field, but maybe not long enough to catch it," said the on-loan Spurs forward.

"Obviously you’re a bit wary, but it is good news that everyone has come back and tested negative and now we can concentrate on the game.

"Me and Ben Davies [Wales and Spurs defender] spoke to him [Doherty] briefly and I think he is doing fine, he’s got mild symptoms."

Bale says the Football Association of Wales deserves great credit for the protocols it has put in place.

He said: "There's only three or four to a table, making sure we are socially distanced, going at different times to get food, wearing gloves to serve our food, no sharing rooms anymore.

"They have gone to great measures to make sure we are safe. It is important to take it seriously."

Jack Grealish can cope with the increased expectations following a strong start to his England career, though Gareth Southgate has emphasised success will only be achieved as a team. 

Aston Villa playmaker Grealish, 25, made his full England debut in a 3-0 victory over Wales in October - setting up the opening goal for Dominic Calvert-Lewin - but was not used by Southgate for the subsequent Nations League fixtures. 

He set up Jadon Sancho in a 3-0 win over the Republic of Ireland last week and was bright in a 2-0 loss to Belgium on Sunday, attempting more passes in the opposition half than any player on the pitch and drawing a game-high seven fouls. 

That result ended England's hopes of reaching the last four of the Nations League and there have consequently been calls for Southgate to begin building his team around Grealish, who has been involved in 12 goals in as many appearances for club and country this season. 

Asked whether it was important to manage the expectations on Grealish ahead of Wednesday's meeting with Iceland, Southgate told a news conference: "I think that's always important with any player, we are going to succeed or fail as a team. It's for everybody to contribute. 

"We've tried to ensure over the past four year that it's collective expectation, we could put pressure on Harry Kane, Raheem [Sterling], other players, and it needs to be the same with Jack. 

"He's had a super start to his international career. I think he'll be able to handle the attention because he thrives under that pressure. He's got great courage with the ball, so I don't think that'll faze him. Equally, it's going to be the squad that brings us success as a collective."

Another player in the embryonic stages of their international career is 17-year-old Borussia Dortmund midfielder Jude Bellingham. 

When told Bellingham wears the number 22 because he was challenged to be capable of playing as a number four, eight and 10 at former club Birmingham City, Southgate said it is important not to try to categorise the teenager as a specialist in any one position yet. 

"Well, I think he could end up playing any of those roles. At Dortmund he's playing as one of two fours or as an eight, and most of the time at Birmingham he was kind of in the position of an eight really," said Southgate. 

"But he's so young, you don't have to specialise yet. [With] a lot of midfield players, it's more important he learns the game, he gets brilliant experiences playing in whatever positions might be his strongest and as time develops it'll probably become apparent which is his more suited position. 

"But he is a midfield player who can pass, tackle, break forward and score goals, so he can do any of those jobs and I never think with young players we should rush to pigeonhole them into one, we should wait to see how he develops. And, at the moment, he's developing really well." 

There has been a focus on the performances of Marcus Rashford following his charity work to help reduce food poverty among children in the United Kingdom. This week he also launched a book club for kids. 

Amid criticism from certain parts of the media and suggestions he should focus on football, Southgate has been left baffled by the treatment of the Manchester United forward.

"I don't really understand those comments. The days where the players just focused on their football and did nothing else are in the far distant past," he said.

"Modern players recognise they have an opportunity to make a difference, whether that's in their local community or on a broader scale, they have a voice and a social media presence.

"You know as a sportsman you're going to have a second career when you finish football, that's the reality, so I don't know why they would limit themselves to just one thing.

"Of course, it's important you're training and focus on games isn't affected, but it's possible to achieve that balance."

Ukraine's Nations League away match against Switzerland was called off on Tuesday after the visitors were put into quarantine by local health authorities due to a spate of COVID-19 cases.

The Group A4 match in Lucerne was in doubt from the moment Swiss regional health officials declared their decision regarding the Ukraine travelling party.

Three Ukraine players tested positive for the coronavirus on Monday and there were four further positives announced on Tuesday - affecting Ruslan Malinovskiy, Sergei Kryvtsov, Junior Moraes and a member of the coaching staff.

Kryvtsov and Moraes had previously tested positive for COVID-19 and had antibodies in their system that prevented reinfection, the Ukrainian Football Association (UAF) said.

Ukraine press officer Oleksandr Hlyvynskyi said in a statement: "UEFA informed the Ukrainian Football Association that 'due to the competent decision of the Department of Health of the Canton of Lucerne to quarantine the entire delegation of the national team of Ukraine, the UEFA Nations League match Switzerland - Ukraine cannot take place'.

"Note that UEFA, UAF and the Swiss Football Association are ready for the match, but the ban [issued by] local authorities cancels all hopes of football organisations to hold the game.

"The decision on the future of the match will be made by UEFA."

The Swiss FA also confirmed the match would not go ahead, saying the Ukrainians could not produce a replacement team to contest the fixture.

Ukraine were sitting third in the group ahead of the final round of fixtures, with Switzerland winless from five games and bottom on three points.

Norway's Nations League clash with Romania on Sunday was also called off after Norwegian health authorities banned the team from travelling due to a positive coronavirus case.

Inter defender Aleksandar Kolarov has tested positive for coronavirus after returning from international duty with Serbia.

The 35-year-old full-back was tested on Monday following his return to Italy after he was an unused substitute in a penalty shoot-out defeat to Scotland that denied Serbia a place in the European Championship next year.

Inter say Kolarov is asymptomatic, but he looks set to miss the Serie A clash with Torino on Sunday and a Champions League encounter with Real Madrid next week.

An Inter statement said: "FC Internazionale Milano can confirm that Aleksandar Kolarov tested positive yesterday as he went through checks upon his return from international duty.

"The player, who is totally asymptomatic, will now follow all of the guidelines and procedures laid out by the health protocol."

Kolarov has made six appearances in all competitions for Inter this season, creating eight chances and supplying one assist.

The only Nerazzurri defenders to supply more key passes are Achraf Hakimi and Ashley Young (both 10), and they have also set up two goals each.

However, Hakimi has featured in nine games and Young has participated in seven.

 

 

Harry Winks is growing concerned about his playing time at Tottenham as he bids to be in England's starting XI for next year's European Championship.

The 24-year-old midfielder made 31 appearances in the Premier League last season, the most he has managed for a single campaign in his career.

However, he has played in just half of Spurs' eight league matches this term, with Tanguy Ndombele and new signing Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg playing in every single one.

Winks made his England debut in October 2017 and has been a regular pick for Gareth Southgate since, featuring in each of their first two games in the current international break.

But his goal is to be a regular starter by the time the delayed Euro 2020 kicks off next June, and he accepts to achieve such an ambition he needs to dig deep at Spurs.

When asked if he needs Spurs boss Jose Mourinho to afford him more minutes, he told reporters: "Definitely. My situation at Tottenham is difficult at the moment.

"It's important that I keep fighting and working as hard as I can to stay in the squad and to stay in the team.

"Every time I get the opportunity for England, I love it, it's a great place to play football here. It's free and the lads get on really well, it's a great place to come to.

"I want to be a part of that in the Euros and I want to be in the starting XI in the Euros as well.

"But, yes, it's important that back at Tottenham I get the opportunities there and I stay in the team there as well."

England's hopes of reaching the Nations League Finals were ended by a 2-0 defeat by Belgium on Sunday, meaning there is nothing at stake for either team in Wednesday's clash with Iceland at Wembley.

Southgate may opt to use the situation to experiment with his team, though he feels that he has had little option to do otherwise across these past three international windows due to the amount of players he has lost to injuries.

In a packed schedule made even busier by the coronavirus pandemic's impact on the 2019-20 season, Southgate fears that by the time of England's next get-together in March, their injury list could be even more alarming – though this could play into the hands of players like Winks.

"What we don't know about March is what we will have available," Southgate added. "It is really an unknown and I have to say a concern.

"In terms of the squad or the starting XI, we have been nowhere near in any of the three [get-togethers this season] to having a full squad to pick from. Nowhere near.

"And, as the season progresses – we will go through with no winter break – we don't know who we will have at the end. So that would be the concern."

Spain's goalscoring issues were again laid bare in their 1-1 draw with Switzerland last week – a game that saw them dominate in terms of possession and chances without managing to claim the win.

Luis Enrique's side needed a late goal from substitute Gerard Moreno to rescue them a point, having earlier seen captain Sergio Ramos miss twice from the penalty spot on his record-breaking 177th international appearance.

That profligate display was far from a one-off, though, Spain having now scored just three times in their past five matches overall.

In the Nations League, meanwhile, they have seven goals in five Group A4 outings – a tally bolstered by a 4-0 win over Ukraine in September.

So, why are Spain struggling so badly in front of goal, and is Luis Enrique doing anything to rectify the problem?


A GAME OF CHANCE

Twelve teams have scored more goals in this year's Nations League than Spain, yet no team has created more chances than their 74, Portugal being the next highest with 72.

Quite clearly, then, the problem is not just a matter of creativity, but more to do with an inability to convert opportunities.

Take the Switzerland match on Saturday, for instance. Spain created 16 chances – not including Ramos' two spot-kicks – but put away just one of them.

Gerard's shot was one of 20 La Roja attempted at St. Jakob-Park, seven of which were on target, and arrived nine minutes after he was brought off the bench.

The Villarreal man got in front of his marker and converted Sergio Reguilon's left-sided cross on the edge of the six-yard box – a classic forward's finish, you could say.

Interestingly, Reguilon is Spain's top chance creator (nine), with the likes of Ferran Torres (eight), Ansu Fati (seven), Jesus Navas and Dani Olmo (both six) also contributing.

Spreading the chances throughout the side is one thing but Spain could perhaps do with a key creator in the mould of Bruno Fernandes.

He has laid on 17 chances for team-mates in five Nations League games, while Portugal team-mates Raphael Guerreiro and Bernardo Silva (both 11) are also into double figures.


STRIKER-LESS SYSTEM

Three of Spain's seven goals in the Nations League have been scored by defenders, one of those being a Ramos penalty.

The other four have been spread out between Gerard, Fati, Mikel Oyarzabal and Ferran, none of whom can be classed as pure strikers.

That is perhaps reflected in the conversion stats, with worst culprit Ferran scoring from one of his 10 shots, Fati from one of eight and Oyarzabal one of five.

To put that into some context, prolific Norway striker Erling Haaland has netted from six of his 14 efforts – a conversion rate of nearly 43 per cent – albeit against lesser opposition.

Perhaps a better example would be Timo Werner, striker for Group A4 opponents Germany, who has four goals from 14 shots against an identical level of opponent.


LUIS ENRIQUE – A MAN WITH A PLAN?

Luis Enrique's options may be limited in terms of out-and-out strikers, but he has inevitably been repeatedly asked about his commitment to using a false nine-style system.

"It is easy to say after the game that Alvaro Morata had to play, or Gerard should have played," he said after the Switzerland draw.

"But we felt that a number nine was not going to be necessary in the first half. We lacked when it came to the most difficult thing: scoring."

The cries for Morata to start through the middle may well grow louder should Spain once again fail to fire in Tuesday's decisive Nations League clash with Germany.

The Juventus striker laid on a lovely assist for Sergio Canales in last week's 1-1 friendly draw with the Netherlands, making it nine goal involvements in 10 outings this term.

Luis Enrique has insisted throughout all this that he should not be judged until after next year's rearranged Euro 2020 finals.

Having become the first Spain boss this century to go three games without a win, though, and with his side facing the prospect of once again missing out on the Nations League finals, a rethink may well be required while there is still time.

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