Spain got their World Cup 2018 qualifying campaign off to a flying start with an 8-0 defeat of minnows Liechtenstein. Three of the four starting defenders in Julen Lopetegui’s first competitive game in charge were from his former club FC Barcelona: Sergi Roberto, Gerard Piqué and Jordi Alba. The trio were on for the full ninety minutes, as was Sergio Busquets in the centre of midfield but new signing Paco Alcácer watched the game from the bench.
Diego Costa put the home side 1-0 up after just ten minutes at the Estadio Reino de León, but all of the other seven goals came in the second half. Sergi Roberto got the first of those after 55 minutes, and then the floodgates opened. Silva and Morata both got two goals each, while Costa also completed a brace and Vitolo got the other.
The win naturally sends the 2010 champions to the top of Group G, but the next fixture on October 6 promises to be a much sterner test. Spain are in Turin for that one to face and Italian side that started its campaign with a 3-1 win in Israel.
Meanwhile in Group I, a penalty from Barça’s Ivan Rakitic put Croatia 1-0 up against Turkey (without Arda Turan) in Zagreb. But deep into first half injury time, Çalhanoğlu got the visitors back level and that’s how it ended: 1-1. In fact, all three of the games in the group ended with the same score, leaving all six sides tied on one point after the first round of matches.
Earlier on in the day, Denis Suárez had played all 90 minutes for the Spain U21 side that drew 1-1 with Sweden in Malmö. The side coached by Albert Celades took a valuable lead on 50 minutes thanks to Gerard Deulofeu but a Mikel Merino own goal four minutes from the end meant it ended all square – a result that complicates Spain’s chances of qualifying for the European Championship in Poland next year.
There are plenty more World Cup qualifiers with a Barça interest to come on Tuesday. Umtiti and Digne are in the France squad that takes on Belarus at 8.45pm CET, while Cillessen’s Holland have a crunch ficture with Sweden at the same time.
In the South American zone, Luis Suárez and Uruguay are up against Paraguay at 1.00am CET, Mascherano features for Argentina in Venezuela at the same time, and Neymar Jr’s Brazil have a fascinating tie at home to Colombia at 2.45am CET.