Preview: Spain vs. Greece

Preview: Spain vs. Greece

Spain will hope to kick off their bid to qualify for the 2022 World Cup in perfect fashion when they do battle with Greece at the Nuevo Los Carmenes in Group B on Thursday evening.

The hosts are aiming to improve on their last-16 finish in Russia 2018, whereas Greece are bidding to return to the world stage after missing out three years ago.

Spain will struggle to top their most recent result for a long time, as Luis Enrique’s side hit Germany for six in the Nations League back in November on their way to a first-placed finish in League A Group 4, with Manchester City’s Ferran Torres bagging an exceptional hat-trick on the night.

The 2010 World Cup champions have the Euros and a Nations League semi-final with Italy to look forward to later this year, but for now, Spain will simply be eyeing a comfortable route to Qatar as they seek to qualify for the finals for the 12th time running, last failing to do so in 1974.

However, their recent finishes in the world’s most prestigious competition have been underwhelming to say the least, as they failed to advance past the group stage four years after their triumph in South Africa, while hosts Russia knocked Spain out on penalties in 2018.

Nevertheless, Enrique’s side managed to prevail in all three of their home matches last year – keeping a clean sheet each time – and a 1-0 defeat to Ukraine was their only loss in their eight matches of 2020, so the Roja faithful will not be accepting anything less than a routine victory for their side this week.

Furthermore, the hosts will be eyeing their 10th successive victory on home soil this week, and having shipped just one goal in that time, Greece will have their work cut out for them if they are to prove their World Cup pedigree against the 2010 champions.

Greece have not exactly enjoyed a spate of success since their historic Euro 2004 triumph, and John van ‘t Schip’s side failed to qualify for the continental championships for the second time in a row after winning just four of their 10 qualification matches in 2019.

Three of those wins came in their final three matches of the group, but by that time it was too little too late, and despite going unbeaten in their 2020-21 Nations League campaign, a record of three wins and three draws from six matches was not enough to see them pip Slovenia to top spot in League C Group 3 as they missed out on promotion to League B once again.

Van ‘t Schip’s men demonstrated their defensive resilience with only one goal conceded in their six group matches in the Nations League, and they recorded shutouts four times on the bounce in the tournament, but three goalless stalemates brought attention to their lack of a clinical edge in the final third – something that must be rectified if they are to book a place in Qatar.

The visitors have lost just one of their last four away matches, although their successful results in that run came against Moldova and Kosovo, and with Sweden also vying for a place at the 2022 tournament, Greece are far from guaranteed to return to the World Cup after an eight-year absence, as Costa Rica knocked them out on penalties in 2014.

Spain and Greece have met eight times down the years, with the latter managing only one win in that time, and the most recent fixture between the two sides ended in a 2-1 win for Spain on their way to a Euro 2008 triumph.

Spain form (all competitions):
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Greece form (all competitions):
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