Sergio Ramos and Spain begin their road to the 2022 World Cup with a disappointing 1-1 draw against Greece. Ramos played for the whole first half before being substituted at the 46th minute for Íñigo Martínez.
While Spain had 80% of ball possession throughout the game against a very passive Greece, they struggled greatly to create good chances. During the first half, Ramos was part of a stale Spanish possession circuit, where players could only recirculate the ball from side to side in a U-shape against Greece’s 4-1-4-1 low defensive block. From time to time, Ramos would do one of this trademark diagonal long balls from left to right (8 long balls attempted, 6 completed), but this pass could not disorganize the tight Greece defense. Ramos had very little defensive work to do, as Greece mostly awaited for counterattack opportunities that never came.
Spain simply did not have players ahead of Ramos moving aggressively without the ball to disorder Greece’s defense. Even players like Marcos Llorente, Dani Olmo or Ferrán Torres—who in their clubs run more aggressively behind defenses—were just waiting to receive the ball to their feet. Llorente in particular struggled to have an impact from the right back position. All Spain could do was send predictable crosses into the box that were usually cleared by Greek defenders.
One of the only situations where Spain did something different was in the 33rd minute, when Morata made a good run off the shoulder of Greece’s center back and Koke delivered a perfectly weighted lobbed pass to him that led to Spain’s only goal.
In the second half, Ramos was substituted for Íñigo Martínez. In the 56th minute, Martínez cleared a ball from the box while sliding into the ground, and he accidentally ended up digging the spikes of his boot into the knee of Giorgos Masouras. The referee called a penalty, which was scored by Anastasios Bakasetas. This was Greece’s only shot of the game. Despite manager Luis Enrique subbing in talents like Pedri and Bryan Gil who gave Spain a bit more dynamism, they could not change this disappointing result.
Spain will play on Sunday against Georgia, and we’ll see if Ramos gets a few more minutes and if Spain gets to play more dynamically this time around.