Spain head coach, Luis Enrique, has insisted they won’t “gamble” by playing for a second-place finish in their final World Cup group match against Japan on Thursday, in order to avoid a possible quarter-final clash with Brazil.
Enrique’s men won their opening game against Costa Rica 7-0 before Sunday’s 1-1 draw with Germany to leave them top of Group E on four points, ahead of Japan and Costa Rica on three points, with Germany bottom of the group with one point.
The winners of the group will face the runners-up in Group F — Morocco, Croatia or Belgium — in the round of 16 before a quarterfinal with the winners of Group G, likely to be Brazil, or the runners-up in Group H.
“It’s a great question, because we’ve thought about it too,” Luis Enrique said in a news conference on Wednesday, when asked if finishing second in the group might be better for his side.
“But imagine we want to finish second, we get to the 90th minute and it’s 0-0 in the two games, and in the 95th minute with 15 seconds left, Japan and Costa Rica both score. You gambled, and you’re out.
“Or imagine Germany are 5-0 up, we’re looking for a draw, and Japan score and we’re out. When you’re convinced that you have a very good team and you want to play seven games [to get to the final], it isn’t about finishing second. We want to finish first. If we play Brazil in the quarterfinals, great, we’ll play Brazil. But we won’t count our chickens before they’ve hatched.”