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Alvaro Morata: Ready to emerge from shadow of super-sub

Enrique’s backing has given the 30-year-old’s sagging morale a huge boost and he has not let his coach down, on most occasions
Alvaro Morata.
Alvaro Morata.
Twitter/@AlvaroMorata

Angshuman Roy   |   Doha   |   Published 30.11.22, 04:47 AM

Alvaro Morata is sort of a journeyman. A graduate of Castilla, Real Madrid’s B team, Morata has played in Madrid, Juventus, Chelsea and his current employer Atletico Madrid.

He was one of the brightest prospects to come out of the Madrid stable. A nose for goals and an instinctive poacher inside the penalty box, Morata was rated highly during his early years. But then loss of form and some bad transfer decisions hastened his fall and he was dubbed as someone who plays well only off the bench.

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During his Juventus days in 2015, Morata’s goals had ousted defending champions Madrid from the Champions League. After he came back to Bernabeu, Morata had asked for game time but then with Cristiano Ronaldo in the ranks, it was next to impossible for coach Zinedine Zidane to agree.

He was not the same player once he joined Chelsea where he endured three miserable seasons. Even as he continued to struggle with clubs, one man did not lose faith in him. Luis Enrique has always trusted Morata’s abilities and kept him in the squads for the Euro 2020 (played a year later) and the Qatar World Cup.

Morata also has the highest respect for his coach and thanks him for all the good things he has done for the Spanish national team. “I felt that I had a whole country against me, it was a very difficult situation and he stood up and defended me against everyone. The only thing I’m trying to do is give him back that trust and everything he’s done for me.”

For example, after two costly misses in the goalless tie against Sweden in the last Euro, Enrique had defended his hit-man. “I think Alvaro had a great game,” the coach had said. “Of course, we all want to take our chances, but other players had chances too. Fans will have to be a bit patient.”

Enrique’s backing has given the 30-year-old’s sagging morale a huge boost and he has not let his coach down, on most occasions. He was Spain’s highest scorer in the Euros with six goals, surpassing Fernando Torres’s five, and here in Qatar he already has two against his name and one assist.

His second of the tournament — the first was in the 7-0 romp against Costa Rica — came against Germany at the Al Bayt Stadium on Sunday. Replacing a faltering Ferran Torres in the 54th minute, Morata was in the mix within six minutes. Sergio Busquets found Dani Olmo, who played to Jordi Alba.

The left-back’s low cross was beautifully flicked by Morata beating his marker David Raum and goalkeeper Manuel Neuer. An ecstatic Morata ran towards the Spanish bench and Enrique was jumping. Later he had a chance to score the second after Nico Williams found him in a good position. Morata was denied by a brilliant Nico Schlotterbeck challenge inside the box.

“I feel comfortable playing for Spain. It doesn’t matter whether I am coming in from the start or as a substitute. What matters is the team. Coach (Enrique) says we are soldiers of the Spanish national team and we are fortunate to have such a committed group,” Man of the Match Morata said.

Morata has staked his claim to a first-team place against Japan on Thursday and with Ferran Torres struggling, Enrique may prefer the Atletico Madrid striker over the Barcelona winger.  Morata would surely like to come out of the super-sub shadow.

A win will do for Saudi

Al Rayyan: After their stunning win over the Argentines, unfancied Saudi Arabia are firmly in the mix ahead of their game against Mexico on Wednesday.

In their five previous participations, Saudi Arabia have qualified for the Round of 16 only once, at USA 1994.

In Qatar, Poland lead Group C on four points, one ahead of Argentina and Saudi Arabia, while Mexico are on one point.

If Saudi Arabia wish to progress, they will have to beat Mexico, regardless of the outcome of the match between Poland and Argentina.

A draw would mean they need Poland to beat Argentina, while a defeat would make the permutations complicated, as they would need to lose by only one goal while hoping that Poland win their match by a bigger margin.

“No one thought that we could play with this level. Yes, in Saudi Arabia we know the players well, but they are unknown to the fans around the world,” Saudi coach Herve Renard said. “We are still alive.”

Reuters



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