On Tuesday evening in Seville, however, everything clicked for La Roja and they were in dominant form. They beat Germany 6-0 but it could have easily hit double figures – they were controlled in defence, better in midfield and lethal in attack.
Of key importance when considering the victory that has earned them a place in the Final Four of the Nations League is the performance of individuals who had been on the shoulder of more established stars but have now taken centre-stage.
That’s the most positive takeaway for Marca. Unai Simon, Pau Torres, Jose Gaya, Ferran Torres, Rodri and Alvaro Morata have all, for them, made a claim to be the ones that lead Spain into the ultimate ambition for this team – next summer’s European Championship.
“There are still seven months to go before next summer’s tournament begins and form may change, but these players have put themselves firmly in Luis Enrique’s thinking with their attitude and performance,” Juan Ignacio Garcia-Ochoa wrote.
Simon entered the international break as Spain’s third-choice goalkeeper, but now, after starting all three games, he’s quite clearly Enrique’s preferred starter.
“Simon has fulfilled a thousand promises,” Garcia-Ochoa wrote. “He’s stopped whatever’s come to him and played with his feet as Luis Enrique requests. Spain’s style demands a goalkeeper with good footwork and Unai has done this very well.”
In front of the Athletic Club goalkeeper, more problems have been solved. It’s been a long two years trying to replace Gerard Pique as Sergio Ramos‘ partner at centre-back, but Torres seems to be the man.
“He has everything,” Enrique had said during the week. “He plays well, he’s tall, handsome.” What’s more, his performances against Switzerland and Germany are been note-perfect.
To their left, Gaya has staked his claim to be La Roja’s starting left-back. The Valencia defender was heavily involved in much of Spain’s best attacking play, all while recovering from the nasty injury he sustained against the Netherlands.
Unsurprisingly, perhaps the most effusive praise is reserved for 20 year-old Torres, who scored a remarkable hat-trick on just his seventh appearance for the national team.
“He’s only 20, but when he retires Torres will remember this match as one of the best of his life,” wrote Garcia-Ochoa. “Together with Ansu Fati, he is the best crack project that Spanish football has. After this game, he’s the undisputed poster boy.”
Torres’ team-mate at Manchester City, Rodri, also impressed, proving that he can replace the injured Sergio Busquets. He dominated a midfield that was missing perhaps its best player, Thiago Alacantara.
“There is relief for Busquets,” wrote Garcia-Ochoa. “Luis Enrique is in love with the Barca player, but Rodri’s great performance has put the debate on the table. Spain can now dream of a midfield made up of Rodri, Thiago and Koke, complemented with Busquets, Fabian and Mikel Merino.”
The final word was saved for Morata, the Juventus striker performing well in Italy and in Europe. “At this level, there is no debate,” Garcia-Ochoa wrote. “Morata should be the number nine of this Spain team.”
Featured image courtesy of Sky Sports.