The perfect storm hit the Wanda Metropolitano in Madrid as a near flawless Spain dismantled a shambolic Argentina. Here’s the five ways they did it
The football world was completely shocked this Tuesday as Spain delivered one of their most impressive performances since 2010 and beat up Argentina with a shameful 6-1 that sent Albiceleste fans into a roaring frenzy of outrage. But, was it really that surprising? These are our five key reasons to think otherwise.
1) Costa might not be a perfect fit for the team, but he must be a fully-fledged member
Spain’s number 9 against the South-American powerhouse was Diego Costa, as Julen Lopetengui decided to rest Rodrigo Moreno as his performance had been pretty outstanding days before against Germany. And, in the 45 minutes he was on the pitch, Atleti’s forward perfectly showcased both his strengths and weaknesses when let loose in such a tightly-knitted, quality-driven side.
While his gelling with other ‘tiki-taka’ players is yet to be perfected (playing styles are very different and Costa sticks out like a sore thumb), he manages to bring to the table that attitude, aggressiveness, bravado and even full-on madness when fighting for any loose ball in the box. That was precisely the way he managed to score the opener: in plays where most players don’t dare to stick their leg, Diego is crazy enough to put his head on the line…and succeed.
2) Accuracy out of this world
The stats at the end of the game were completely otherworldly, a spectacular showcase of pinpoint accuracy by Spain’s vanguard. Lopetegui’s men had six shots on target…and all six of them produced a goal.
Finishing plays and the ability to choose the best option when attacking are usually two of the main traits any top contender for the World Cup has to display. In this sense, Spain’s forwards and midfielders are incredibly intelligent, a football IQ that allows players such as Andrés Iniesta, Isco, Koke and Thiago Alcántara to outsmart the defenders and put themselves in the best position to finish any play with a goal.
3) Isco’s hat-trick disco
Isco’s season has been one of ups-and-downs, as expected from a player who doesn’t really have the full, 100% confidence of his manager and is usually ‘sacrificed’ and benched by Zidane in favor of the illustrious BBC attacking front.
But the Malaga-born midfielder somehow managed to both excel in the pitch and, at the same time, send a loud message to Real’s boss with his hat-trick: when surrounded by quality players, his talents hugely improve and he becomes the difference-making man. His accuracy was spot on in all goals, his chemistry with Iniesta, Asensio and Thiago was excellent and his partnership with Aspas demolished Argentina’s defense in the second half.
Gran partido hoy, contento por mi primer hat-trick⚽️⚽️⚽️🇪🇸2️⃣2️⃣ https://t.co/1evDeoRWiA
— ISCO ALARCON (@isco_alarcon) March 27, 2018
4) Iago Aspas, the lock-picker
The guy is on a roll and his impact once he came into the game was outlandish: from a tight 2-1 match to running circles around Argentina. Iago Aspas is on fire and participated in all the four goals scored in the first 30 minutes of the second-half.
Skilled, confident, cunning and quick as lightning, the attacker is marveling everyone both in Celta and in the national team. He’s up there, next to Rodrigo Moreno, as the team’s fittest and most versatile forward. Having scored an impressive 4 goals in only 277 minutes, Spain’s play style fits the Moaña-born player like a glove.
¡Y para el siguiente truco de magia necesitaremos a un portero con un guante en el pie y a un delantero rápido como una bala! 🎩 pic.twitter.com/gukvMp2SQA
— Selección Española de Fútbol (@SeFutbol) March 28, 2018
5) Leo Messi was nowhere to be seen
If we talk about the opposition, Argentina actually didn’t do so badly in the first half. If it wasn’t for Higuain’s lack of accuracy when trying to score, the tie would have been inevitable when half-time came around. However, the absence of Leo Messi was the single thing that loomed over the whole game: the world’s best player, struggling with muscle pain, decided to take a break and see the match from the executive box.
From that privileged position, he witnessed his team’s destruction and how first Romero and then Caballero collected the ball from the back of the net time after time. His poker face totally showed his astonishment first, anger later and concern finally as the result swelled to a huge 6-1. Messi left the stands on the 77th minute and headed straight to the locker room while everyone felt that, without him in the pitch, Argentina is as ordinary as a Sunday League team. Things will be very different once the World Cup comes around.
— Leo Messi 🔟 (@WeAreMessi) March 27, 2018