Spain under 21s started their 2017 UEFA European Under-21 Championships with a group game against Macedonia, who were appearing in the finals of a major football tournament for the first time at any age group.
Spain U21 vs FYR Macedonia U21: match report
Coming into this tournament the Spaniards were seen as one of the favourites, and tonight's opening fixture will have done nothing to dampen those views. In fact, with such a sound performance from the entire team, a few golden moments, and depth from the bench clear with their cameos, expectations are only likely to rise.
Madrid's Asensio stars in five goal win
It was Real Madrid's Marco Asensio who will get a lot of the attention, and understandably so. His hat-trick and overall level of play showed that he would not have looked out of place in the senior squad during their recent outings. But it was his Madrid neighbour, Saúl Niguez, that opened the goal proceedings, and in some style. With only 10 minutes on the clock, and no real clear chances to speak off as both sides found their feet, Valencia's Jose Gayá, who was a valuable outlet all night, sent in a cross from deep on the left which found the Atleti midfielder in space in the middle of the penalty area. But as the ball was just behind him, some acrobatics were called for and he executed it perfectly.
Bicycle kick Saúl, super-strike Asensio
With an early goal cushion Spain could have been forgiven for sitting back a little and taking some of the early pace out of the game. But this didn't transpire. Macedonia were a big part to play in what was a very fluid and enjoyable first half. As the Red Lions pushed, Spain were able to break with Milan's Deulofeu but the move died and Spain seemed to slow up the play. Asensio, though, had other ideas. With nothing appearing to be on he hit a sweet right-footed drive which flew from outside the left side of the area to the postage stamp of Aleksovski's goal. Two excellent goals and the game was just 16 minutes old.
Macedonia impressed but Spain's class showed
"It was great to get a win, but we now have to focus on the second game against Portugal, it's going to be tough" - Hector Bellerín
Spain U21 vs FYR Macedonia U21 live online: as it happened
Spain U21 vs FYR Macedonia U21: preview
The hotly fancied Spanish side, who have won this tournament four times, get their under-21 campaign underway against debutants Macedonia featuring some talented individuals. But where other national sides have had to scoop up their young stars for the senior squad, Spain's strength in depth, and policy to give importance to all categories of competition, means nothing less than three points will be expected.
Spain U21 team news
The Spanish youngsters come into this tournament with high hopes of walking away with the trophy. With a squad that includes Real Madrid's Marco Asensio, Barcelona's Denis Suárez, Milan's Gerard Deulofeu, Málaga's Sandro, Arsenal's Hector Bellerin and Atlético's Saúl Niguez (the list goes on) there is no doubt that other teams will be wary of the threat they pose.
Manager Albert Celades will be delighted that he has so much talent to choose from - some of these players could have been part of the full national squad - so the question will be who he picks and how he structures the team to get the job done against Macedonia. Real Madrid returner Borja Mayoral could be a big threat through the tournament to finish off the quality delivery that will be in abundance.
FYR Macedonia U21 team news
History made for Macedonia. This is the first time any national age group has made international finals. And not many will give them much hope of starting their campaign off with three points but Spain will be wise not to take them too lightly. They finished top of their qualifying group - only losing one game along the way - leaving France among others behind them.
The Red Lions manager, Blagoja Milevski, has built the team on a solid defence (they've conceded just one goal in their last seven games) and will aim to keep the attacking talent of Spain at bay and nick something at the other end. Keep an eye out for Enis Bardi. For Ujpest Dozsa in the Hungarian top-flight he scored 12 goals in 29 games, the third best in the division last season.
Spain U21 vs FYR Macedonia U21: betting odds
If you feel like adding some more interest to the game why not have a little flutter on a FYR Macedonia win. 16/1 at the time of writing, but remember not to bet more than you can afford to lose. It's 16/1 for a reason!
Follow the live coverage match of U-21 European Championships between: Serbia-Spain