Spain have ended the March international break on a high after defeating Kosovo on Wednesday. La Roja has played three World Cup qualifying matches in the last seven days, winning two and drawing the other.
It’s a good return for a side that is currently going through a rebuilding process. Having achieved their best period of success from 2008 to 2012, Spain have been underwhelming in recent times.
This is in part due to the fading out of their golden generation of players. The likes of Andres Iniesta, Xavi, Iker Casillas, Xabi Alonso, David Villa and Fernando Torres are no more, with a new generation taking over.
One thing that is clear from the last three matches, though, is that the current Spain team has a lot of potential, although their quality is light years behind some of their European rivals.
Spain see off Kosovo
On Wednesday, La Roja put up an assured performance as they recorded a 3-1 win over Kosovo. Such a big result against a minnow like Kosovo doesn’t matter much but Spain’s performance was impressive.
They showed tremendous attitude and were patient in their build-up as the Balkan nation sat deep and kept all 10 players in their own half.
Spain had to wait until the 34th minute when Jordi Alba found space to set up Daniel Olmo to open the scoring. Once they found the breakthrough, it was only a matter of time before the next goal came.
And it did come sooner than anyone thought. Just two minutes after Olmo’s goal, Ferran Torres doubled Spain’s lead with a well-taken finish before Besar Halimi rounded up the perfect night with the third goal.
Enrique’s trust in the new guard paying off
Luis Enrique’s appointment as Spain boss had raised a few concerns, but the Asturian has done a tremendous job so far. La Roja has lost just one game in the last two and half years.
A major contributing factor to this turnaround is Enrique’s trust in young players. He has succeeded in phasing out the older players, bringing in fresh faces who are hungry for success.
In the last three games, David de Gea, Sergio Ramos and Thiago Alcantara have been relegated to the bench while Unai Simon, Eric Garcia, Pedri, Ferran Torres and Olmo are constant names on Enrique’s starting sheet.
The 50-year-old is clear on what he wants to do and knows very well that most of these older players are past their best. And he didn’t mince words while explaining why he dropped his captain, Ramos.
"I have decided that others should play, nothing more. The idea that he [Ramos] should play is obvious,” he said in his post-match press conference, as quoted by Marca.
"The leader is a leader in all facets. He deserves to break all the records. The best players play. I don't care about how it looks or what you might say. I care about my team.”
Indeed, Enrique has been very bold in playing the youngsters and it is paying off, at least by the looks of their recent results.