Riazor enjoyed a goal glut on Tuesday night, and showed its gratitude by creating a festive atmosphere that made the occasion all the more splendid. It was a walk in the park for Spain. Spanish television pundit Áxel Torres had already let it be known that this wasn’t the Iceland side that knocked England out of the Euros. Several of their stars have been at the centre of a horrible episode of sexual abuse that the federation tried to hide. Neither they, nor those federation officials, are still there. And the national enthusiasm generated for the team has evaporated. The Iceland of today is a new group of players seen not as the successors to a cycle of glorious achievement, but as the heirs to their predecessors’ ignominy.
They’re a side who do what they can, and it isn’t much. And what’s more, a Spain team with 10 changes from the win over Albania played well from the get-go. There was energy, desire and a real spark. Luis Enrique has got the whole group marching to his beat. It’s a squad lacking in hierarchies, so pretty much everyone has a shout of starting. There can be no doubt that Sergio Busquets calls the tune in midfield - he was rested this week - and Unai Simón seems to be a nailed-on starter in goal. But aside from that, and given that football today is about 16 rather than 11, everyone knows they can have a major part to play at the World Cup. Nobody’s making up the numbers and you can see it in the squad spirit.
Riazor gave Gavi a warm reception as he warmed up in the second half, showing him the love that such a bright prospect deserves. He was given another run-out together with Pedri, whose special talent is there for all to see. Two Barça players, one an Andalusian, the other a Canary Islander, hailed by the Riazor fans. Luis Enrique also received the crowd’s acclaim post-match, in recognition of the job he has done in building a side in his vision and getting it motoring. With his abrasive personality, his rejection of Real Madrid players and his inclusion of so many unknown faces, he didn’t enjoy an easy start. But he has shown that his plan was a good one and that the players he picks perform well. Spain are looking decent.