Brais Mendez Goal Leads Spain Past Bosnia in 1-0 Friendly Win

Rory Marsden@@roomarsdenFeatured ColumnistNovember 18, 2018

Spain's midfielder Brais Mendez (L) celebrates a goal with Spain's midfielder Isco during the international friendly football match between Spain and Bosnia-Herzegovina at the Gran Canaria stadium in Las Palmas on November 18, 2018. (Photo by LLUIS GENE / AFP)        (Photo credit should read LLUIS GENE/AFP/Getty Images)
LLUIS GENE/Getty Images

Spain bounced back from two recent defeats to finish the year in winning fashion as they beat Bosnia and Herzegovina 1-0 in a friendly at the Estadio de Gran Canaria on Sunday.

Hours earlier, they were confirmed as second-place finishers in Group A4 of the UEFA Nations League by England's defeat of Croatia, but Luis Enrique's side prevailed in Las Palmas thanks to a 78th-minute goal from debutant Brais Mendez.  

It was hardly a swashbuckling performance from the hosts, who failed to fashion many golden chances despite dominating possession.

But they deserved the victory, and it was a sharp finish from Mendez, who reacted fastest when Isco's shot was parried back into the area. 


Spain Must Be More Direct to Fix Struggling Attack

Spain have not enjoyed a great 2018. This time last year, they had eased through qualifying for the 2018 FIFA World Cup and were firmly among the favourites to win it.

On the eve of the Russia tournament, though, Julen Lopetegui was sacked, and they have not looked the same side since.

One of their notable deficiencies at the World Cup was their failure to make the most of all their possession.

It was particularly noticeable as they were knocked out by Russia on penalties in the last 16:

OptaJean @OptaJean

191 - Russia 🇷🇺 have eliminated Spain from the World Cup despite completing only 191 passes in 120 minutes ! Spain 🇪🇸 have completed 1006 passes today, new record for a team since Opta started to collect this data (1966). Punishment. #ESPRUS #WorldCup https://t.co/MuYvJPaSgl

They endured the same struggles for much of Sunday's clash. Spain completely dominated the ball, but actual shots on goal were in short supply, particularly in the first half:

footballespana @footballespana_

Spain possession 73%, goals 0 - chances 0! https://t.co/a525dYrzsH #EspanaBosnia #LaRoja

When Spain's players did finally pull the trigger, they did little to trouble Ibrahim Sehic in the Bosnia goal.

Marco Asensio put a free header wide, Isco shot over the bar, Alvaro Morata missed a sitter, and Suso simply couldn't find a finish despite plenty of promising movement.

Finally, in the 78th minute, a slick passing move put Jose Gaya in behind the Bosnia defence, and he pulled back to Isco, who drilled an effort at the goalkeeper.

Sehic made a save but could only parry to substitute Mendez, who made no mistake as he slotted home:

OptaJose @OptaJose

1 - Brais Mendez is the first player to score on his debut for Spain 🇪🇸 since Iago Aspas in November 2016 against England, both as a Celta players. Future. https://t.co/0bWcnEp4jM

Manager Enrique was heralded for introducing a more direct approach when he won his first three games in charge after his appointment in July.

Spain's goal on Sunday was evidence that they have the ability to be more penetrative, but for much of the evening, it had been a ponderous attacking performance from the hosts.

If Spain are to reestablish their position as one of the world's best sides, the direct approach is the one they must take next year.


What's Next?

For both Spain and Bosnia, Sunday's friendly was their final match of the year. They will both be involved in qualifying for UEFA Euro 2020 when it begins in March 2019.