Sports / Soccer

New-look Spain makes a statement

By Reuters in Valencia, Spain (China Daily) Updated: 2014-09-10 07:37

Spain badly needed a convincing performance after its World Cup flop and coach Vicente del Bosque had plenty of positives to dwell on after Monday's 5-1 Euro 2016 qualifying victory over Macedonia.

Goals from Sergio Ramos (penalty), Paco Alcacer, Sergio Busquets, David Silva and Pedro secured three points in its opening Group C fixture in Valencia, the European champion's first competitive game since the World Cup in Brazil.

While not exactly a revolution, it was a new-look Spain side, with Cesc Fabregas excellent in a creative central midfield role, Silva a livewire up front and Alcacer scoring in his first international start.

The home side looked shaky in defense at times and conceded a 28th-minute penalty when Juanfran felled Aleksandar Trajkovski, but it was a generally positive start to Spain's title defense as it seeks a third consecutive European crown.

"We have begun the competition with three points and the team's performance was good," del Bosque told a media conference.

"That is what's important, although I would have liked to have seen a touch more fluidity in our play," said the former Real Madrid coach who has won 25 and drawn two of Spain's qualifiers for major tournaments since taking over in 2008.

"We know that we lost a bit of credit after the World Cup and we have to win it back gradually," said del Bosque in reference to Spain's first-round exit in Brazil in June. "The best thing we can do is do it on the pitch, not with words."

He singled out Silva and Alcacer for particular praise.

"Alcacer met expectations; he scored and showed good movement," said the coach.

"Silva used the freedom we gave him very well and had a very good match. He has individual qualities that are necessary to break down very stubborn defenses."

With victory assured, del Bosque handed Munir el Haddadi his Spain debut when he brought the teenage Barcelona forward on late in the second half to replace Koke.

Munir, who turned 19 last week and was a late replacement in the squad for the injured Diego Costa, is of Moroccan origin and his appearance for Spain means he is now unable to play for the African nation.

"It is a source of joy for us that Munir can make his debut at the age of 19," del Bosque said.

"Now we have to see how he progresses with his club. In any case, we know that we have a forward who is quick and who scores goals."

(China Daily 09/10/2014 page23)

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