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U21 EURO 2017

Asensio hat-trick helps Spain to opening win over Macedonia

Real Madrid star Marco Asensio shone along with the rest of the Spanish youngsters as they showed no mercy to debutants Macedonia in the Uefa U21 championships.
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Spain's midfielder Marco Asensio celebrate scoring during the UEFA U-21 European Championship Group B football match Spain v FYR Macedonia on June 17, 2017 in Gdynia, Poland. / AFP PHOTO / Maciej GILLERT

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.

Saúl Niguez scores this beauty to get the goals flowing.
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Saúl Niguez scores this beauty to get the goals flowing.Adam WarzawaEFE

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

Although Macedonia did impress throughout - especially the likes of David Babunski and Enis Bardhi - their true threats to Kepa's goal were few and far between. Despite this they had 18 shots compared with Spain's 10 and could quite possibly surprise Portugal or Serbia if taken too lightly in their other games. And even at two down, nobody was writing them off tonight. But that changed when captain on the night slotted home a penalty shortly before half-time after a Egzon Bejtulai handball in the area.

The second half played out much as expected and two further goals from Asensio added a gloss to a very professional performance. Next up, Portugal.

Post match quotes:

"We felt for almost 60 minutes we were equal with an opponent like Spain" - Blagoja Milevski

"What made the difference was their individual quality. We tried to stay faithful to our style of play - staying high and pressing the ball - but it's not easy. in a couple of weeks." - David Balbunski

"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.

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Pascu MendezDIARIO AS

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.

Macedonia's fans attend the UEFA U-21 European Championship Group B football match Spain.
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Macedonia's fans attend the UEFA U-21 European Championship Group B football match Spain.MACIEJ GILLERTAFP

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