Spain’s 3-0 win over Sweden on Monday in Euro 2020 qualifying was largely unremarkable. While it took until halfway through the second half to break the deadlock, the result was rarely in doubt (outside of some goalkeeping heroics by Sweden’s Robin Olsson). Chelsea loanee and second-half substitute Alvaro Morata doubled the lead with a penalty in the 85th minute and Mikel Oyarzabal made sure of the points with his first international goal a couple minutes later.
Spain’s first goal also came from the penalty spot, record-breaker Sergio Ramos making no mistake. This was Ramos’s 165th cap, two off Iker Casillas’s Spain record. Before the match, Ramos was also recognized for his 122nd international win, a new Spain record. Impressive totals, to be sure.
But the most remarkable thing happened even prior to all that, when the teamsheets were submitted. Starting in goal for the second time in this international break and the third consecutive Euro 2020 qualifier was Chelsea goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga rather than Manchester United’s David De Gea.
De Gea era el dueño de la portería de España desde 2016, pero Kepa repite en el once por segundo partido consecutivo: ¿quién crees que debe ser el guardameta titular de la @SeFutbol?— MARCA (@marca) June 10, 2019
❤️ De Gea pic.twitter.com/0KjVTDzvEF
De Gea had held the job for the past three years, since Euro 2016, but his form has dipped precipitously with multiple high-profile errors for both club and country.
And so, it’s now Kepa’s job to lose, which we hope he won’t for a long time. Congrats, kid!
Here’s what Spain (acting) head coach Robert Moreno had to say about the situation.
“We don’t think the De Gea period with Spain is over. But Kepa had an incredible end of the season — champion of the Europa League with great performances. In this concrete moment, we thought that Kepa could help us in a better way. The competition is now on. When you have something easy, you get relaxed, and that’s not good. The competitiveness is also good in goal.”
“It’s not just about one single thing. We already watched Kepa play quite well in the Europa League, so you could already guess he was in good shape. But we had to check it in the team. I talked to Luis Enrique on Friday, right before the game, and we chatted about it. And after the game, we decided to keep him in the lineup.
“It’s not one concrete moment when we decided it, but we started commenting the lineup a long time ago, and then when you have all the info on your hands, that’s what gives you the last push to take the decision”.
-Robert Moreno; source: Goal
Sounds like the job is Kepa’s to lose.