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Morata gets the Mestalla monkey off his back


I'm missing the Nations League, our dynamic group, with Croatia and England and good football. Those games had a vibe that's impossible to transfer to these tedious qualifying stages, often against smaller teams, and with two places for the final phase available in each group, meaning we're confident that Spain won't miss out. It's football with no emotion, for the smaller teams too, who already know they're going nowhere. If this was stratified into categories, like the Nations League, these smaller teams would be playing at their level, with the incentive of fighting for promotion.

Spanish players applaud fans in Malta.
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Spanish players applaud fans in Malta.Domenic AquilinaEFE

A much-changed Spain

But what we've got is this, and it's what we saw yesterday: a boring game. Luis Enrique (to whom we wish all the best at this difficult time) left behind a starting line-up that was very different to the one in Valencia. Only three players started again. I would have preferred for him to continue with that team, which worked well, with maybe the occasional change, to consolidate the side and get the players used to playing with each other. These alterations give me the idea that there's a certain notion of a day-out about these games, with the plan for as many to play as possible. Only Pau López and Sergi Gómez ended up not playing either in Valencia or Malta. Only Sergio Ramos and Asensio played both full games.

Monkey off! Spain's Alvaro Morata celebrates scoring against Malta.
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Monkey off! Spain's Alvaro Morata celebrates scoring against Malta.DARRIN ZAMMIT LUPIREUTERS

Morata and Sweden positives

At times it seemed like nobody cared about the game. Malta quickly sat back, Spain pressured with determination, but lacked the muscle to create danger, above all in the first half. One thing didn't work: Bernat in front of Gayá. He seemed unable to find his place. The right-hand side was much better, with Sergi Roberto and Asensio initially, then Navas and Asensio. Morata turned things around after drawing a blank in Mestalla with two goals that will have lifted his spirits, even if the Malta keeper Bonello helped him a fair amount, the son of the man who suffered 12 times on that historic night for Spain. The best thing of the night was the draw between Norway and Sweden. Two points less for the Swedes.