Football

Next in line to be No. 9

Barcelona striker Munir El Haddadi continued his dramatic rise as part of a new-look Spain team hoping to put the disappointment of a first-round exit at the World Cup behind them.

Munir was introduced for the final 15 minutes as La Furia Roja rediscovered their scoring touch with a 5-1 win over Macedonia in their first Group C Euro 2016 qualifying match yesterday morning (Singapore time).

It was the first step in Spain's bid to retain the trophy they won in 2008 and 2012.

And it was another giant step for the prodigious talent that has come through Barca's famous La Masia academy, after he scored on his debut for the Catalan giants in the opening game of the La Liga season against Elche.

His movement in the box and predatory instincts attracted the attention of Spain coach Vicente del Bosque who called him up against Macedonia as a replacement for the injured Diego Costa.

"This is a dream and I will keep this shirt," said the 19-year-old, who has a Moroccan father but decided that he would rather play for Spain.

"This was my decision and I knew what I was doing. Since I was young, I have played in Spain and this was my idea," he added.

"I spoke with people in Morocco and told them that I wanted to play here instead."

His father though told a different story about his son's decision to represent Spain.

Talking to Al Primer Toque programme in Spain, Mohammed El Haddadi said that Munir would have represented whichever country had contacted him first.

He said: "(Spain) called first and he went with them. If Morocco had called he would also have gone there. I've always said to him it is whoever opens the door first."

Del Bosque said that Munir made the right decision to represent Spain instead of Morocco.

"It is a source of joy for us that Munir can make his debut at the age of 19," said the Spain boss.

"Now we have to see how he progresses with his club. In any case, we know that we have a forward who is quick and who scores goals."

Munir is the third youngest player to represent Spain after Bojan Krkic and Josep Samitier. - Wire Services.