Spain had ‘huge faith’ in Simon during shootout, says Enrique

James Holland
Luis Enrique Spain F365

Spain boss Luis Enrique has revealed his confidence in Unai Simon prior to their penalty shootout victory over Switzerland.

Following a 1-1 draw in normal time, the Spaniards reached the semi-finals of Euro 2020 with a 3-1 triumph on penalties.

Mikel Oyarzabal scored the winning spot-kick in St Petersburg after misses from Fabian Schar, Manuel Akanji and Ruben Vargas for the Swiss.

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Simon, who represents Athletic Bilbao at club level, pulled off great saves to deny Schar and Akanji.

Speaking after the win, Enrique said: “In terms of the penalties I was calm as it wasn’t down to me.

“Once the players had decided who was going to take them we all had huge faith in Unai and the takers so all you could do was wait to see.

“I told them to enjoy the moment as much as they could. We didn’t get off to a good start (Sergio Busquets hit the post) but the players were able to turn it around.

“People say it is a lottery but it isn’t at all, everything comes into it: the ability to deal with pressure, the goalkeepers, but when it goes your way it feels very good indeed.”

Asked if he told Simon he could become a hero with penalty saves, Enrique added: “Any coach thinks that when they speak to their goalkeeper.

“I’ve seen him save many penalties for Athletic. I tried to tell him to put pressure on the taker but I was completely relaxed and had faith whatever happened.”

Spain went ahead in the first half as Denis Zakaria put Jordi Alba’s effort into his own net. But a defensive error in the second half saw Xherdan Shaqiri equalise.

Spain, who won the competition in 2008 and 2012, will now take on Italy in the semi-final. Roberto Mancini’s side beat Belgium 2-1 in an enthralling encounter.

Speaking about lifting the trophy, Enrique said: “I’ve always said we were one of the eight teams who had a chance of winning the title but it was dependent on our performances.

“Now we are in the last four that is fantastic and fills us with a great sense of pride.

“It would be ridiculous to think the four semi-finalists aren’t going to be thinking about going one further and go to the the final.”