Spain 6-1 Argentina: La Roja thrash Messi-less Albiceleste
"Happy, but not getting carried away", was our headline on Saturday after a draw in Germany in which Spain played very well, but took all too few shots and had to settle for a share of the spoils. Today, though, we've every reason to get carried away: we've just hit Argentina for six, after all. Indeed, the way the Albiceleste reacted after the fourth went in, flying in with all manner of ugly tackles, makes you want to shout the result from the rooftops all the more. It's a pasting that will have made the whole world sit up and take notice. Spain played a different game this time: they didn't exert the same degree of control that goes with their usual, renowned brand of tiki-taka; instead, they set about punishing the Argentines' errors with ruthless precision, hat-trick hero Isco starring for a side who look fit to go far.
Messi absence both disappointing and to Spain's advantage...
Argentina took to the field with no Leo Messi, which was both a disappointment and an advantage. He was left to endure the evening's events from a box high up in the stands, his expression of concern growing as the match progressed. Jorge Sampoali's men didn't start badly - in fact, it could almost be said they started well - and Gonzalo Higuaín had the night's first chance to score. But twice La Roja made the visitors pay after catching them out in their own half as they brought the ball out sloppily. 2-0 it then remained until shortly before half time, when Nicolás Otamendi pulled one back from a corner that saw Sergio Ramos mistime his jump and David de Gea 'keep his nose out of it', as they say in Argentina when, as he did, the keeper lets the ball go straight through his hands. Game on, it seemed...
Referee ought to take his share of blame for Argentina antics
But no. In the second half, with Iago Aspas on for Diego Costa, Spain picked off a wayward Argentina defence time and again with lethal counter-attacks. The South Americans were a rabble. Two quickfire goals arrived after the break, and Sampaoli's side took that as their cue to start kicking their hosts five feet into the air; then, when Spain got another two, they redoubled those efforts. The referee, an Englishman with good intentions, was slow to twig that things were spiralling out of control and kept his cards in his pocket far too long (and only produced yellows). He must take his share of the blame. But nothing could douse the party atmosphere inside the Wanda. There were cries of 'olé', Gerard Piqué left the field to far more applause than whistles, and we also saw a debut for Marcos Alonso III. Somewhere up above, his grandad, Marquitos, will have been smiling from ear to ear.
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