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Masterful Morata and Nolito show Spain the way to silence critics

Spain’s Euro 2016 campaign looks like it is finally up and running.

Despite dominating play for the full 90 minutes in their opening Group D match against Czech Republic, Spain failed to find the net until just before the final whistle – and it was defender Gerard Pique who made the difference.

It was thus little surprise that question marks were raised over their attacking performance, with Alvaro Morata in particular receiving his fair share of criticism.

Those concerns were gone, though, after Friday’s meeting with Turkey, as the Juventus man emphatically silenced his critics with a superb performance at the Stade de Nice, Spain winning 3-0 to qualify for the last 16.

Morata first went close to opening the scoring when trying his luck with a powerful shot from 20 yards out, before nearly forcing Hakan Balta into an unfortunate own goal after Jordi Alba’s low cross.

A breakthrough seemed inevitable, and Morata eventually got what he deserved in the 34th minute, heading home after a sublime cross from Nolito. The fact that his direct opponent, Mehmet Topal, is not a natural defender arguably helped his cause, but both his movement and finishing were of the highest order.

Morata went on to double his tally after the break, tapping home from close range after some great work from Andres Iniesta and Alba. Again, not a spectacular goal, yet it’s a striker’s job to pop up in the right place – and he did just that.

Spain were hopeful Diego Costa would become the number nine they had long been searching for after he gained Spanish nationality, but the Chelsea striker never really found his feet while playing for the national team and was consequently left out of the squad for Euro 2016.

But the European champions seem to have at last found their top-class marksman in Morata. The 23-year-old has scored four of Spain’s most recent eight goals and seems destined to add to his tally in the remainder of the tournament if this outing is anything to go by.

Down the left, Nolito showed why Barcelona were so keen to lure him back to Camp Nou last January after his unconvincing performance against Czech Republic. The versatile attacker beat his direct opponent, Gokhan Gonul, time and time again and caused the Turkey defence all kinds of trouble with his mazy dribbles and pinpoint crosses.

The first goal was as much about Morata’s finish as it was about the Celta winger’s cross, before the latter was rewarded with a goal of his own three minutes later following some awful defending from Topal.

Nolito, 29, only made his Spain debut in November 2014, but has since become a key figure for La Roja. He offers the width that few others provide and has the quality to create something from out of nowhere with his unpredictability.

Spain’s win over Turkey was arguably the strongest performance we have seen at this European championship and much of their brilliance was the result of Nolito and Morata’s fine work, with Iniesta equally impressive in midfield.

There’s still a long way to go to the final, but Vicente del Bosque’s men have every reason to be optimistic about their chances of going all the way if they can build on such a comfortable win.

Fri 17 Jun, 2016
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