Spain boss Luis Enrique determined to beat Japan: 'We want to finish 1st'

JAVIER SORIANO / AFP / Getty

Doha, Nov 30, 2022 (AFP) - Luis Enrique said Spain will not count their chickens before they are hatched when they face Japan on Thursday, aiming to win and qualify for the World Cup knockout phase.

La Roja are top of Group E on four points and are guaranteed to progress with a draw, but are aiming for all three points at the Khalifa International Stadium.

Some have suggested that Spain might benefit from coming second and avoiding a potential quarter-final clash with Brazil, but their coach disagreed.

"We have reflected on it, but from a professional point of view, imagine this, that we were interested in coming second," Luis Enrique told a press conference Wednesday.

"We're in the 90th minute, stoppage time arrives, and both games are 0-0. And in the 95th minute with 15 seconds to go, Japan score and Costa Rica score.

"You've speculated for 95 minutes and been eliminated in the 95th.

"Or the reverse. Germany are winning their game 5-0 and we are at 0-0, which is good for us, and then we concede and we're out.

"When you are convinced that your team is a very good team and that we want to play seven games, we don't want to come second. We want to finish first.

"That means playing against whoever it is in the next round, against the second team from Group F. Perfect.

"Then in the quarter-finals against a team from Group H. (Maybe) we'll play against Brazil, but first we have to beat Japan.

"We will not count our chickens before they are hatched.

"Top level sport is not about speculation. We have to do our homework and finish first in the group."

Japan earned a 2-1 win over Germany in their first game, in one of the surprises of the tournament so far.

Spain won the World Cup in 2010 and are among the fancied sides to lift the trophy after a 7-0 romp over Costa Rica in their first game and a 1-1 draw against Germany.

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Spain boss Luis Enrique determined to beat Japan: 'We want to finish 1st'
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