Spain’s identity crisis looks to be well and truly over after Marco Asensio inspired a 6-0 thrashing of World Cup runners-up Croatia in the UEFA Nations League on Tuesday.
Defeat to Russia in July prompted a change of coach and doubts about the Spanish passing style but after an impressive win over England at Wembley, Luis Enrique has now overseen a demolition of Croatia too.Asensio’s two long-range shots, the second cannoning in off goalkeeper Lovre Kalinic, had Spain three up before half-time in Elche, after Saul Niguez had earlier headed home.
Croatia, abject at the back, were no better after the break. Asensio first threaded Rodrigo Moreno through to finish before supplying the corner for an unmarked Sergio Ramos to nod in number five.
Isco then flashed a sixth into the top corner, again Asensio the provider.
There was no sign of the ponderous build-up that suffocated them against Russia at the World Cup. There was no sign either of Gerard Pique, Andres Iniesta and David Silva, who all retired in the summer, and are not yet being missed.
Asensio was the star, his goal and trio of second-half assists fully justifying his start ahead of Iago Aspas.
Spain were more clinical. Ramos wafted a ball out to Dani Carvajal whose stabbed cross was met brilliantly by the arriving Saul. Asensio made it two with a crashing long-range drive and two minutes later, his left foot unleashed again, this one curling onto the bar and then in off the unfortunate Kalinic’s back.Croatia looked stoney-faced as they emerged for the second half but there was no improvement, either in their intensity or defending.
Rodrigo raced clear and slotted through the legs of Kalinic before Ramos headed in, unchallenged from eight yards.
Isco added a late flourish, receiving a pass from Asensio inside the box. He feigned to go one way but pushed the ball the other, before slamming it into the top corner to complete the rout.