Spain midfielder Thiago Alcantara admits media criticism has made things difficult for the squad after their struggles in the group stage of the World Cup.
Russia 2018 did not begin well for the 2010 champions when Julen Lopetegui was sacked on the eve of the tournament after agreeing to become Real Madrid coach, and the team’s performances have been a shadow of their previous best.
After a thrilling 3-3 draw with Portugal they scraped a 1-0 win over Iran and were then held to a 2-2 draw by Morocco.
But, despite still topping Group B, the scrutiny has increased on the players, now being led by Fernando Hierro.
“We understand it. As Spaniards, we have to be self-critical,” Thiago told a press conference.
“I’m completely realistic about how it’s gone for us here. We ended top of the group but we haven’t played our best football.
“We are a long way from home and, in theory, all of us – the team and the Spanish media – want the team to win. Then we have a poor game, there are mistakes.
“It’s true we haven’t produced our best football, but come on… If you (the media) don’t give us support, if you don’t build us up to ensure the public back home is behind us, everything is much harder for us.
“You never hear the good things. OK there have been some bad things but a lot of good things too.
“Let’s forget about the negative things and let’s be united. We are all in this together.”
Spain are preparing for a last-16 clash against hosts Russia on Sunday at the Luzhniki Stadium.
They go into the game as favourites, even taking into account their opponents’ home advantage and better-than-expected form in the group stages.
Thiago believes they have to take the game to Russia or risk falling into the trap which led to their previous struggles.
“We can’t be living in fear of slipping up,” the Bayern Munich man added. “We want to play our football, make the team fly, maintain possession of the ball to disarm our opponents.
“That becomes very difficult when our rivals take the lead then sit back to defend.
“We have to take more care with our passing so that other teams don’t hit us on the break.”