Once again supported by its young players, Spain quietly won against Cyprus on Tuesday in Granada (6-0) and put itself back in the race to qualify for Euro 2024. Seriously, Luis de la Fuente, under pressure in the midst of the Rubiales scandal and in bad shape in Group A before this gathering, consolidated their second place and returned to six points behind Scotland, group leader with a match in advance.
The Roja players, who had just humiliated Georgia 7-1 on Friday, did not have to exert their talent to dominate a Cypriot team too limited to hope for a result. Lined up from the start, FC Barcelona prodigy Lamine Yamal, 16, broke another record for precocity: after becoming on Friday the youngest player and scorer in the history of the Spanish selection, he also became the youngest to be tenured.
And once again, he was untenable on his right wing. The young left-hander caused an imbalance with each of his shots, narrowly missing giving Morata the 1-0 ball in the 10th minute. “Lamine is one of those players who is always one step ahead, who learns very quickly. (...) He has enormous potential, these sparks and this genius... Now we must protect and train him,” declared Luis de la Fuente at a press conference.
Yamal then had the spotlight stolen by the other arrow lined up by De la Fuente, Nico Williams. Perfectly launched in his left lane, the Athletic Bilbao winger adjusted a good cross taken back by Gavi with first intention from the left (18th). Also very restless on the left, Williams missed the double ball (29th) before serving Mikel Merino perfectly, who doubled the lead with a header (32nd). Overwhelmed, the Cypriots tried to pass by air, but they only found the heads of Laporte, Le Normand and Rodri, vigilant.
Lamine Yamal resumed his number on the right, but his attempt from a tight angle after having caught a cold from his opposite number was again diverted (38th). The Barcelonan persevered and thought he scored his second goal with La Roja, but his left shot hit the post. Morata followed well but his goal was disallowed for offside.
After returning from the locker room, the Spanish coach chose to rotate, Williams having been forced to give up his place to Pino, who was injured in the left thigh. The Spaniards slowed down a bit, but the new arrivals, Joselu, Balde and Ferran Torres completed the Spaniards' journey. The Real Madrid striker placed an unstoppable header on a cross from his friend Dani Carvajal (70th), before the latter did it again three minutes later, this time for Ferran Torres. Villarreal midfielder Alex Baena, 22, who shone during the Euro U20s this summer, scored a first goal for the selection to bring the score to 5-0 (77th).
Revenge, Ferran Torres, who joined the selection following Marco Asensio's injury, added a sixth goal to sign a double (82nd). La Roja have now won 33 of their last 34 home matches in Euro qualifiers, their last defeat dating back to June 2003 against Greece, according to statistician Opta (0-1). And she will have to keep up the pace, because at the same time, Erling Haaland's Norway beat Georgia (2-1) to come within two points of the Spaniards, with one game in hand.
Spain now face Scotland in October for a decider with first place in the group at stake. “It will be a key game for us. (...) We must win all the matches we have left to reach first place in the group,” said Luis de la Fuente.