SPAIN 6-1 SOUTH KOREA
Nolito: the ace in Vicente Del Bosque’s pack
The Celta forward has scored four in his last two appearances for La Roja to surely force his way into the starting 11 in France.
David Silva’s sumptuous free kick will attract the most attention from largely dour encounter between Spain and South Korea in Salzburg, but Nolito will have provided more nourishment for Vicente del Bosque’s pre-tournament thoughts.
The Celta forward again struck twice for La Roja in the Red Bull Arena, as he had a few days previously against Bosnia. Nolito has only played 88 minutes of competitive football for the moustachioed marquis, in two Euro 2016 qualifiers against Luxembourg and Ukraine. In his first appearance in an official game for Spain, he played 13 minutes and provided one assist. Between those matches last year and Wednesday’s Salzburg stroll, the 29-year-old had played 150 minutes in friendly action and chalked up another assist and two goals. Against South Korea, Nolito completed his first full 90 minutes for his country and bagged another two strikes, admittedly not facing the stiffest opposition.
However, the emergence of the man wearing 22 on Wednesday as a scoring threat at international level could not be timelier. Del Bosque has named just two out and out strikers in his squad for France, Álvaro Morata and Aritz Aduriz. The former scored just 12 goals for Juventus in 2015-16 and has not found the net for Spain in over a year. Aduriz goes into the Euros off the back of the season of his career having bagged 36 in 55 games for Athletic, but also carrying his 35 years into a major tournament for the first time. Between them, Del Bosque’s strike force have scored four international goals.
The Spain manager has often eschewed a traditional striker in favour of a fluid front line featuring his midfield master craftsmen Silva, Cesc Fàbregas and occasionally even Andrés Iniesta. But Silva apart – El Mago hit his 24th Spain goal against South Korea – none are prolific enough to shoulder the burden of a surrogate striker. Pedro has scored more than either Iniesta or Fàbregas on the half the number of caps but is likely to be deployed from the bench.
Nolito, with an overall scoring rate of a goal a game, and one every 37.5 minutes since his debut goal last Sunday, could be the ace in Del Bosque’s pack.
A popular betting website has the Celta forward at 18/1 to be the tournament’s top scorer, and 50/1 to be named player of the tournament. Other bookmakers are offering respective odds of 40/1 and 66/1. Even Del Bosque might fancy a flutter at those prices. His bet on Nolito could well be about to pay off in spectacular style.