Spain racked up another win on Wednesday night as they swept aside minnows Panama in a crushing 5-1 victory. The game represented Markel Susaeta's first appearance for his national team, whilst other fringe players such as Benat, Raul Albiol and Victor Valdes also gained valuable playing time for La Roja.
Susaeta marked his debut with the final goal, joining Pedro, Sergio Ramos and David Villa on the scoresheet as Spain returned with a dominating display resulting in a comfortable win. Despite the Athletic Bilbao winger's productive introduction, it was Barcelona forward Pedro who stole the show with two goals to further enhance his reputation in international football.
Of course, the absence of highly-esteemed strikers Fernando Torres, Fernando Llorente and Alvaro Negredo enabled Pedro to grab the starting role against Panama, and the 25-year-old did not let manager Vincent del Bosque down. Having scored another brace against Saudi Arabia and a hat-trick in his last game at Belarus, Pedro has now bagged a staggering seven goals in his last five games for his country, and is now beginning to cement himself as a key cog in the intricate Spanish machine.
It is a far cry from earlier this year, where Pedro was coming off a relatively disappointing season for Barcelona and could have missed out on joining the national team as they embarked on further glory in Russia and Ukraine. Thirteen goals and three assists does not seem too alarming, but Pedro's previous two seasons saw him total a combined 45 goals and 14 assists as he burst onto the scene and played an important part in Spain's 2010 World Cup win.
However, last year he found himself caught in a traffic jam that was Barcelona's attack. It goes without saying that Lionel Messi was a permanent fixture in Pep Guardiola's side, but Pedro also found himself surrounded by David Villa, Alexis Sanchez, Cristian Tello and Isaac Cuenca as Guardiola frequently rotated his frontline.
This season Pedro is showing more consistency, even if the goals aren't flowing as they used to be, and that is transferring to the international scene. Two years ago in South Africa, he exhibited some overconfidence and inexperience against Germany in the semi-finals, where he should have passed to Fernando Torres to seal Spain's passage to the final. Instead, he tried to score himself and was tackled, leaving his team with a slender 1-0 lead to hang on to. But Pedro defended his decision after the game, saying “I didn't see Torres alongside me – I was so focused on the goal. When I cut inside, the ball got left behind and I lost the chance. I was overconfident.”
Now he has developed and gained more first-team football, Pedro has the ability to play out on the flanks or even down the middle, but it is more his style of play that makes him so valuable to both Barcelona and Spain. He offers pace and directness, something that both sides do not use as their primary tactic. Amongst a number of players that like to pass the ball, Pedro represents a Plan B that, if he continues to develop, could even become an integral part of Plan A.
Pedro offers both teams something different and it is this quality that means he will be a vital figure in the line-ups of both Spain and Barcelona for years to come.