Luis Enrique reckons he would have “had a heart-attack” if he knew Spain were briefly heading out of the World Cup during Thursday’s dramatic conclusion to Group E.
Spain were beaten 2-1 by Samurai Blue at the Khalifa International Stadium, with Japan coming from behind in the second half after Alvaro Morata’s early opener.
La Roja went into the game top of the table but needed a point to absolutely make sure of progression.
They did not even manage that, but Germany’s 4-2 win over Costa Rica elsewhere ensured Luis Enrique’s men lived to fight another day at the expense of Die Nationalelf, finishing second behind Japan.
There were a few minutes, however, where Spain dropped out of the top two completely as Costa Rica led Germany.
Luis Enrique claimed he was unaware, and he was seemingly grateful for his ignorance.
“We were knocked out for three minutes? Why do you say this? I was not paying attention,” Luis Enrique said with a look of bemusement. “When did that happen?
“Okay, fantastic. I didn’t know this. Why? Because I was paying attention to my match. If I’d have found out, I’d have had a heart-attack.”
Of course, the defeat ultimately cost Spain little because many will argue their immediate path in the knockout stages is now kinder than it would have been if they won the group.
Topping Group E would have put them on track to face Croatia next and potentially Brazil in the quarter-finals.
Finishing as runners-up means they are now likely to come up against Portugal in the last eight, assuming La Roja get beyond Morocco.
Well, that was certainly a day|
— FIFA World Cup (@FIFAWorldCup)
Talk of result manipulation to avoid Brazil dominated the news agenda before this game, but given how close Spain came to packing their bags, Luis Enrique was in no mood to celebrate progression.
“Yes, we qualified, I’d have liked to be top by winning this game, but this was not possible because in five minutes they got two goals, and in 10 minutes we were completely out.
“We were dismantled. We tried to close the game, but it wasn’t possible. But we didn’t have any danger in the first half, then in the second… I told them in half-time [Japan] will push us, they had nothing to lose.
“We didn’t have good game management, we collapsed. I’m not happy, I never celebrate defeats.
“I have nothing to celebrate. Of course, the bracket changes and many things are different, but I have nothing to celebrate.”
Japan’s winning goal by Ao Tanaka was somewhat controversial in nature, as replays showed the ball was agonisingly close to going out of play before Kaoru Mitoma’s cut-back to the match-winner.
Luis Enrique was shown an image of the situation and was left concluding it to be fake.
“I saw the images, they must be wrong or fabricated,” he said. “I saw an image and said that can’t be true.
“I have nothing else to say. I have full respect. I knew something going on as VAR took so long.”