The Malta game brought its glut of goals – not quite as many as the famous 1983 qualifier, but enough to demonstrate the gulf between the two sides. A gulf that, once again and once and for all, makes us long for European qualifiers to be ranked into categories to avoid all these drawn-out and unexciting qualifying campaigns. If Malta played in lower-category groups they would always have the incentive to move up to a higher-ranking group and would compete against nations at a similar level. As things stand, they can hope for little more than damage limitation. This system has already been tested in the Nations League and it worked.
Dance of the debutants
The problem here is that applying this to the qualifying stages would cost Ceferin votes… So, all that remains on such nights is to enjoy the goals flying in; on this occasion seven of them, all by different players, including two debutants: Pau Torres took less than a minute to find the net after coming off the bench, while Dani Olmo ‘took his time’, scoring two minutes after coming on. The fans in Cádiz reveled in a beautiful second half (the first was somewhat stodgier), when Malta crumbled and Spain made every attack count, and cheered every action by Pau López, most of them made with his feet or outside the box.
Cazorla rolls back the years
However, beyond the game’s narratives and side notes, we were treated to a masterclass by Cazorla, who pulled every string during his 52 minutes on the pitch, spreading the play with skill and know-how. Everything that revolved around Cazorla was good; against obliging opponents, granted, but with every Spain player adding a competitive edge. This Spain side boasts a broad array of talent and, barring Sergio Ramos and possibly Busquets and Jordi Alba, no one has their starting berth guaranteed. The game was - against Romania it will be similar - an exercise based on merit and I can safely say that everyone took it seriously. That’s the kind of spirit a team is built around.