Silva, Thiago, Isco, Iniesta... strings to Spain's World Cup bow

Silva, Thiago, Isco, Iniesta... strings to Spain's World Cup bow

Málaga’s La Rosaleda stadium was full to witness Spain play Costa Rica and what a show the fans were treated to. Everything was positive, from Julen Lopetegui’s selection to the performances of the players. The Spain coach played Sergio Busquets as a lone anchorman and in front of the Barcelona midfielder unleashed his string section; David Silva, Thiago, Andrés Iniesta and Isco. Flanking them were Álvaro Odriozola and Jordi Alba with an ambitious and lucid Álvaro Morata up front. The whole thing worked well and provided moments that brought to mind the match against Russia at Euro 2008, the most brilliant exhibition laid on during the defining era of this side. Only three of that side remain today: Sergio Ramos, Iniesta and Silva.

The years go by but the style stays the same. New players come in to keep the ball rolling and at this point we must pause to reflect on Isco, who gave another recital. The Real Madrid midfielder played exquisite football that was at the same time based on practical results, in line with his teammates. This version of tiki-taka isn’t based on making the ball seasick, as is the case occasionally, but has as its goal the opening of gaps in the opposition defence. In the middle of such an enjoyable evening, Odriozola took another step towards consolidating his position in the side. A player we practically didn’t see at all was Kepa, who only had to make one save towards the end of the game. It would have been interesting to see him between the sticks for the opposition.

In among so much good news only one source of concern remains; Isco limping off early. Possibly it is nothing more than a knock but the boot that Kendall Watson – who had clearly tired of Isco’s dancing feet - put in was shocking. The referee did not send him off but his coach substituted him immediately afterwards in a move that did him credit. Isco was also forced off because of the challenge and he was replaced by Marco Asensio, such is the stock that Spain possesses. And the Real Madrid man was involved in the fourth goal, when Silva pounced on a ball Costa Rica were trying to play out from the back and hit his 35th Spain goal with an angled drive. All in all, everything is looking good ahead of the World Cup.