Alcacer could be the answer to Spain's striker woes
(Sergio Ramos 15-pen, Paco Alcacer 17, Sergio Busquets 45+3, David Silva 50, Pedro Rodriguez 90+1)
(Agim Ibraimi 28-pen)
On the back of a disastrous World Cup, Spain needed a big lift.
In the 5-1 victory over Macedonia yesterday morning (Singapore time), they got nothing more than a pick-me-up.
Macedonia lacked the credentials and know-how to turn this fixture - both teams' opening game of the Euro 2016 qualifiers - into a true test.
A boost, however, came in the form of a 21-year-old striker desperate to shine in his hometown.
Sparkle he did at the Ciutat de Valencia, as Paco Alcacer grabbed a goal and set up another on his competitive debut to signal his arrival on the international arena.
The performance enhanced the Valencia striker's burgeoning reputation as one of the hottest young talents in Europe.
A young man's career is poised for take-off.
Meanwhile, Spain may have stumbled upon an answer.
It's early days still, but Alcacer may just turn out to be the No. 9 they have been crying out for.
Spain have long been lacking a marksman, one who fits into their intricate system, ever since David Villa lost his edge after breaking his leg three years ago.
Fernando Torres' time had come early and gone even quicker. Fernando Llorente never convinced he could do the job. Alvaro Negredo, along with several others, have faded swiftly.
Coach Vicente del Bosque pinned his hopes on Diego Costa for the World Cup in Brazil.
So sure, although some would say desperate, was the Spain boss that he convinced Costa to ditch his Brazilian passport for a Spanish one.
But Costa merely added to the conundrum, bearing the brunt of the criticism as Spain hobbled crashed out of the tournament with tail tucked between legs.
Observers feel that Spain are trying to fit a square peg into a round hole.
Costa is physical, prolific and well capable of running a brutal one-man show up front.
Chelsea snapped up the wonderful specimen from Atletico Madrid and he has repaid the faith with four goals in three English Premier League games.
But Spain's tiki-taka system requires a striker of more subtlety. Del Bosque has clearly not given up on Costa yet.
Alcacer, who received his first senior team call-up only 10 days ago, got his spot in the first 11 only because Costa picked up a thigh injury.
But, in 57 minutes of play, he showed all the qualities Spain need from their offensive reference point. Against Macedonia, he did everything Costa struggled to come up with.
The finesse returned to Spain's play in the final third, with Pedro Rodriguez, David Silva and Cesc Fabregas combining with the new Spain striker to form a fluid, dynamic attacking unit.
The incisive passing and purposeful running of the rejuvenated Spanish outfit drove Macedonia into a corner that they struggled to get out of.
Alcacer was enjoying himself.
He's clever and quick, and he times his runs well and anticipates crosses.
Like how he got on the end of Juanfran's pass in the penalty box to put his side 2-0 up against Macedonia in the 17th minute.
He's not only strong enough to hold up play and win headers, but he's also fleet-footed enough to evade his markers.
The goal he set up amid close attention from a defender - a cushioned header for Sergio Busquets to lash in from outside the box in first-half injury time - demonstrated admirable power for his 1.74-metre frame.
If he hasn't won over del Bosque's heart with this display, then he would have at least made himself a genuine alternative to Costa.
"I am very happy with the victory and, above all, to mark my competitive debut with a goal for the national team. It makes me proud to wear the jersey, alongside these boys."
- Spain striker Paco Alcacer
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.