Spain fire warning to Scotland as ex-Newcastle and Stoke striker becomes unlikely hero against naive Norway
A first-half strike from Dani Olmo and two late goals from substitute Joselu gave the Spanish all three points in the Group A encounter at the Estadio La Rosaleda in Malaga. It means that Spain and Scotland, who defeated Cyprus 3-0 on Saturday, share top spot going into Tuesday evening’s sell-out encounter at Hampden after the opening round of fixtures. It was De la Fuente’s first match since taking over for Luis Enrique after the World Cup and while pleased to get the victory over the Norwegians, the 61-year-old now wants his players to find another level in Glasgow.
“There's a lot to improve,” said De la Fuente, “but I'm very happy because things have been seen in four days. I'm happy above all because of the attitude, but we have a margin of tremendous improvement. We knew the importance of Norway, a very physical opponent, well-organised and difficult to beat in duels. The good thing is that we have gone further, with only four days of work. But the players are so good that they understand things quickly.”
Spain’s surprise hero was 32-year-old striker Joselu, who made his debut for La Roja. Currently at Espanyol and formerly of Newcastle and Stoke City, where he was far from prolific, he came on for Alvaro Morata on 81 minutes and within five minutes had scored twice. He is now in contention to start against Scotland. "He is with fantastic confidence, doing a great job,” De la Fuente said of Joselu. “He came out with a lot of enthusiasm. We are very lucky to have players like that. Joselu has earned himself to be here. He is justly deserving of this debut.”
Norway, who played without injured star striker Erling Haaland, were left to rue the decision not to award them a penalty in the first half when captain Martin Odegaard was felled by Rodri, with head coach Stale Solbakken wishing his players had made more of the situation. “We have a bit to learn there,” said Solbakken. “We are not going to make the referee make the decision, but we have to make him look at it. If it had been watched [on VAR], there would have been a penalty.”
Norway are on the road again on Tuesday, travelling to Tblisi to face Georgia, who were inactive over the weekend, in the other Group A fixture.