Moscow, June 19: After Spain’s 3-3 draw against Portugal in their FIFA World Cup Group B clash in Sochi on Friday night, the question of who should be first choice goalkeeper for the 2010 champions has become the topic of debate across the national media.
First choice keeper David de Gea was badly at fault for Portugal’s second goal of the game when he let a long-range shot from Portugal captain Cristiano Ronaldo squirm from his grasp.
Although de Gea has been in excellent form for Manchester United, it was his second bad mistake in three matches for his country, prompting some calls for either Kepa Arrizabalaga or Pepe Reina to be promoted for Spain’s forthcoming game against Iran, reports Xinhua news agency.
“We all want to play,” admitted Kepa in an interview with Spanish State TV network RTE, although he gave his support to de Gea.
“He is a great goalkeeper and he has been playing in the Premier League at a really high level for several years. He is at a massive club and he has a huge amount of talent,” commented Kepa, who was the favourite of Spanish fans to start in an online poll carried out by Spanish sports paper ‘Diario AS’ in the wake of the 3-3 draw in Sochi.
As high as 50 per cent of respondents backed Athletic Club Bilbao’s Kepa to become first choice, with 38 per cent still supporting De Gea and 12 per cent saying veteran Reina should start. Reina played for Napoli, who finished the 2017-18 Serie A season in the second place.
“We have all been first choice for our club teams and the coach will take his decision, but you have to be prepared and demand the best of yourself, because that improves you and the competition in the side,” continued Kepa.
It is unlikely Spain interim head coach Fernando Hierro will look to deepen a debate over the issue by dropping de Gea against Iran. Following the Portugal match he said de Gea was “one of us, and you don’t abandon a member of your family”.
A clean sheet against an Iran side which looks solid in defence, but rather more lightweight in attack would allow de Gea to regain his confidence and put the issue at rest. Moreover, a change of keeper after just one game could create more problems than it solves in a side which showed it is still united after the sacking of former coach Julen Lopetegui just 48 hours before the start of their first game.
There is also the question over who would be first choice if de Gea didn’t play, with both Kepa and Reina having good seasons, so making a change would merely open a separate debate, not over whether or not de Gea should start, but over who should replace him.