Spain narrowly defeated Scotland to move closer to qualification for the 2024 European Championships in Seville on Thursday night. It came with a 2-0 win courtesy of a header from former Real Madrid man Álvaro Morata and an Oihan Sancet strike assisted by Joselu. The home team were fortunate to see VAR intervene to rule out Scott McTominay’s earlier strike which would have given Scotland the lead.
Spain coach Luis de la Fuente selected only one Real Madrid player in his starting line-up, with Dani Carvajal starting his third consecutive game for his country. It’s a feat that he hasn’t managed since 2017, when Julen Lopetegui was in charge.
Carvajal’s performance was forgettable, with his only real involvement of note being his clumsy control and decision making which saw him lose the ball and foul Bournemouth winger Ryan Christie. It saw him shown a yellow card for his troubles.
The full-back was involved in six duels, losing five of them, winning only one aerial duel in his 67 minutes of action before being replaced by Sevilla captain Jesús Navas. Carvajal created a single chance and registered a 92% pass completion rate, but found it difficult to break down Scotland’s low block from out wide.
Fran García made his international debut
Both Fran García and Joselu were left on the bench, with the former unexpectedly becoming the first player to be introduced as he replaced Barcelona’s Alejandro Balde at half-time.
In doing so, he made his debut for the senior national team at the age of 24. It came having previously played for Spain at every age group since under 16s, working alongside De la Fuente at various different ranks.
His inexperience at this level showed at times and the physicality of Scotland tested him. He grew into the game and improved as time went on, but still failed to win any of his duels and looked suspect defensively.
On the ball, he was more of a threat and looked to offer some pace down the left flank to transition and move forwards. His impact was limited, but there were moments of promise that should see him in De la Fuente’s considerations.
Joselu made a late appearance
Despite averaging a goal every 46 minutes for Spain in the Euro qualifiers, Joselu was left on the bench and De La Fuente opted not to turn to the 33-year-old centre forward until the 84th minute.
Given his workload at Real Madrid of late, where he has emerged with a starting role in attack, that may not be bad news for Carlo Ancelotti. It could also point to a possible start in Spain’s next match which is only 72 hours away.
Instead, De la Fuente stuck with Morata as the team’s number nine, and looked to change the second line of attack. Granada youngster Bryan Zaragoza and Athletic Club’s Oihan Sancet were both given debuts from the bench.
When Joselu was introduced on 84 minutes, Spain were looking to see out the result and he still had a big impact. First, he set up Sancet for Spain’s second goal with a deft pass into his path, and then he almost got himself on the scoresheet, rounding Scotland goalkeeper Angus Gunn only for his shot to be blocked on the line.
The result was a crucial one for Spain, who now control their own destiny in their pursuit to finish top of their qualifying group. The win means they sit on 12 points, three behind Scotland, but with an additional game still to play and a superior goal difference. It also means that they are two points clear of third-placed Norway, who Spain will play in Oslo on Sunday night.