COMMENT: The in-form midfielder was superb as La Roja beat Belarus on Saturday and set the European champions on their way with a stunning strike in Huelva
Isco is a man inspired. The 22-year-old set Spain on their way to a 3-0 win over Belarus with a wonderful opening goal and later left the pitch to a standing ovation. On a cool night in Huelva, fans had seen a glimpse of the future.
On fantastic form for Real Madrid recently in the absence of Gareth Bale through injury, Isco’s inclusion has seen coach Carlo Ancelotti change to a 4-4-2 formation and adopt a philosophy much more about passing and possession than their usual counter-attacking style.
Vicente del Bosque must have been an interested observer because the 63-year-old coach opted for something similar on Saturday night. Isco, left out of the World Cup squad last summer, started in a midfield four with Koke, Sergio Busquets and Santi Cazorla.
It worked well and Spain dominated from the outset. Much more fluid in the absence of Diego Costa, the new generation impressed early on but needed a moment of sheer brilliance from Isco to take the lead.
There appeared little danger when the Madrid man picked the ball up outside the area, but the 22-year-old curled the ball effortlessly into the top corner and the goalkeeper hadn’t even moved as it hit the back of the net. It was his first goal for Spain on his his first start. Surely the first of many.
The youngster missed out on the trip to Brazil in the summer because of his role as a substitute at Madrid. However, he has been in fine form with his club in recent weeks, putting in the kind of displays that saw him win the Golden Boy award for the world’s best young player in his time at Malaga. Spain fans will be happy to see that the early signs suggest he is capable of transferring that to the national team.
With Isco in the team, Madrid have played some of their finest football in years and Spain’s slick showing on Saturday was a significant step up from their poor performances in recent times.
As well as his superb strike, the midfielder made Spain tick with his precise passing and was always available to receive possession. He also worked hard defensively, an aspect of his game that has improved dramatically during his time at Madrid.
“Isco played very well, but he got caught up in trying to do things too elegantly,” was Del Bosque’s bizarre assessment of his player’s performance after the game.
But the fans weren’t complaining. And even though he faces pressure from Bale at Madrid and will not be guaranteed a place in the Spain side once Andres Iniesta returns from injury, Isco’s fantastic form could be the key to the future for both club and country in the coming years.