Azpilicueta reacts to claims Spain lost on purpose to Japan in order to send Germany crashing out of 2022 World Cup
- La Roja suffered shock defeat in final group game
- Still went through to the last-16
- Die Mannschaft sent packing at first round
WHAT HAPPENED? Luis Enrique’s side were heavy favourites to take three points from their final outing in Group E but, despite taking the lead through Alvaro Morata, suffered a shock 2-1 defeat to one of the surprise packages at Qatar 2022. That setback did little damage for Spain, as they still progressed to the last 16 as runners-up in their group and avoided the prospect of going through Brazil in the quarter-finals, but Germany were left cursing their luck as they bowed out after overcoming Costa Rica 4-2 on matchday three.
WHAT THEY SAID: Chelsea captain Azpilicueta, who was replaced at half-time by Dani Carvajal, has addressed claims that La Roja threw in the towel against Japan, telling reporters: “I was aware in the second half [of the Germany score]; I was on the bench so I was aware of the situation. If they look at our group the last couple of years we always give everything and we go out of the pitch to win every game, to press every ball. We have been punished from just scoring a goal and then conceding straight away so that’s the way we play. We are the first disappointed to not win the game so you can see what happened. It was difficult because it is something that you cannot control, the other game, so the only thing we could do was to try to give confidence and to help our team-mates to win our game. We knew that a draw or a win we would qualify. That’s the only thing we could control.”
THE BIGGER PICTURE: Former Real Madrid striker Hugo Sanchez is among those to have suggested that Spain lost on purpose in order to avoid Brazil and to send Germany packing, with the Mexican legend saying: “I was not there and I’m not in the mind of Luis Enrique but he had thought about what was the best way to avoid playing Brazil in the quarter-finals. Yes there is a risk, but it’s a risk worth taking. It’s not that they fear Brazil but they respect them.”
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WHAT NEXT? Having made their way to the knockout rounds, 2010 winners Spain are now set to face Morocco on Tuesday – with the victors there potentially tackling Cristiano Ronaldo and Portugal in the quarter-finals.