Euro 2020: Spain struggle with Morata muddle: Richard Buxton
Enrique's loyalty to under-fire striker might not be helpful for player or country
Luis Enrique compared Spain's meandering Euro 2020 campaign to a bottle of Cava.
Once uncorked, he believed the world would see La Furia Roja in their truest form.
The bubbles belatedly started to flow as Spain booked their place in the round of 16 with an emphatic 5-0 demolition of Slovakia in their final Group E encounter last week.
But Enrique's supreme self-confidence threatens to see that fizz turning flat when his side take on Croatia in tonight's Copenhagen showdown.
He has always believed in doing things his own way; even his squad for the Finals was out of step with his contemporaries, having chosen just 24 players instead of 26.
Similarly, the former Barcelona coach's perseverance with Alvaro Morata goes against the grain with the striker's profligacy contributing to Spain's precarious group stage.
Long before a ball was kicked at Euro 2020, the on-loan Juventus striker had already become the nation's designated fall guy. Some fans openly derided him during a friendly draw with Portugal at the home of his parent club, the Wanda Metropolitano.
That condemnation followed him from Spain's capital to the searing heat of Seville, where Morata was left with whistles ringing in his ears during all three Group E games.
Those catcalls only served to strengthen Enrique's personal resolve as he declared that the starting line-up for the draw with Poland would consist of "Morata and 10 others".
It is easy to see why the 28-year-old continues to be held in such high regard by his compatriot, with a tireless work rate which helps Spain's heavy pressing come to life.
Yet Morata's established mental fortitude issues still make his continued inclusion a gamble for Enrique, especially after the player revealed that he has received death threats throughout the Finals because of his well-documented pitfalls in front of goal.
AWAY FROM HOME
Decamping from home soil for the knockout stages offers him a much-needed reprieve.
Spain face Croatia at Parken Stadium and, if they progress, they will play their quarter-final in St Petersburg, while Wembley will host the semi-finals and final.
Whether Morata can rediscover the Midas touch in front of goal away from the whistles that soundtracked his most recent appearances for La Furia Roja remains to be seen.
Opportunities to banish a poor return of one goal in his last six international outings are set to prove limited against a stubborn Croatia side that is still highly effective, despite being a far cry from the one which ground their way to a World Cup final three years ago.
Like Spain, Zlatko Dalic's charges eventually sprung into life for their own do-or-die win over Scotland.
Their ageing squad clearly retains the muscle memory of its exploits in Russia. History is on their side, too, with two wins out of their past three meetings.
Ivan Perisic's absence due to a positive Covid-19 diagnosis limits the Croats' firepower but little else, with an evergreen Luka Modric continuing to pull the strings with remarkable effortlessness.
The former Ballon d'Or winner also risks providing a timely reminder to Enrique that his decision to include no Real Madrid players in his final squad was a costly strategy.
Morata's prior working knowledge of Modric affords him an inside track on finding a hole in his former Bernabeu teammate's armour - but he still has to make it count.
If he fails, Spain will need to keep the Cava chilled for another 18 months, at least.