Spain coach Luis Enrique admits the 5-0 win over Slovakia which secured progress to the last 16 of Euro 2020 was a relief.
The former Barcelona boss was under increasing scrutiny after draws in their opening two Group E matches but poor opponents and a goalkeeping howler from Newcastle’s Martin Dubravka made their passage more than comfortable.
“It’s a relief of course – I don’t know about a liberation – but not just for me but in terms of what it means for our ability to achieve a convincing result via our style,” he told his post-match press conference.
“I believe people will have plenty of complaints but I really don’t think there can be any criticism of today.
“When you are a coach you know when you win you get praise, sometimes too much, and when you lose you get criticism. I think coaches know that better than anyone in the world of football.
“Now it’s about celebrating and then tomorrow we will prepare for the next match. I am sure there are things we can improve.”
Own goals from Dubravka and Juraj Kuka book-ended strikes from Aymeric Laporte – his first in international football – Pablo Sarabia and Ferran Torres and set up a last-16 tie with World Cup runners-up Croatia.
“Perfect for us. I am sure people would have had preferences. It’s a good game; Croatia are a top team with players we know well,” he added.
“It’s going to be a tough match but when you get through to the last 16 you can’t expect to play easy teams.
“We will now prepare for the last 16 with plenty of confidence and we are desperate for Monday to come around.”
Slovakia coach Stefan Tarkovic said sorry to supporters after the defeat, which confirmed their exit from the tournament.
“I know we didn’t give the fans any joy today and I’d like to apologise,” he said.
“To make such mistakes against Spain is not simply acceptable and they used those mistakes – after the third goal it turned into an exhibition game for them.”
However, Tarkovic refused to criticise Dubravka.
“I was really happy Martin saved that penalty and it is really unlucky for us and Martin as well to concede such an own goal, it is just bad luck,” he added.
“If we were always to reproach our players they would be afraid to play. I am sure Martin will draw a lesson from this. You just have to learn from it and move on.”