Roberto Soldado made
a strong claim for a place at Euro 2012 with a hat-trick and
Andres Iniesta and Cesc Fabregas reprised their World
Cup-winning double act as a slick-looking Spain beat 10-man
Venezuela 5-0 in a friendly on Wednesday.
Soldado, back in the world and European champions' squad
after a five-year absence in place of the struggling Fernando
Torres, made the most of his chance to impress coach Vicente del
Bosque after coming off the bench for the second half.
The Valencia striker also missed a 66th-minute penalty after
he was hauled down in the area by defender Fernando Amorebieta,
his tame effort easily saved by goalkeeper Daniel Hernandez.
Venezuela had their backs to the wall after the dismissal,
which occurred when they were 4-0 down, but had done well to
keep the dominant Spaniards at bay until the 37th minute at
Malaga's Rosaleda stadium.
Fabregas sent Iniesta clear to score the dramatic extra-time
goal that beat Netherlands 1-0 in the 2010 World Cup final and
it was his low centre that his Barcelona team-mate turned into
the corner of the net for the opener.
The home side doubled their lead three minutes later when
David Silva sped into the area from the right, exchanged a quick
pass with Fabregas and drilled the ball into the far corner.
Soldado, who made his two previous appearances for Spain in
2007, opened his account for the national side five minutes into
the second half when he flicked a Santi Cazorla pass into the
net from close range.
He grabbed his second three minutes later when he turned in
Alvaro Arbeloa's low cross and made amends for the missed
penalty six minutes from time when he lifted a Jordi Alba cross
high into the net to complete his hat-trick.
"It's a dream to return to the national team in this way,
but you also have to take into account the circumstances in the
second half, which was even worse for them with the sending
off," Soldado told Spanish television.
"Also I can't forget the penalty I missed," he added.
"I don't think [this hat-trick] is my ticket to the Euros. I
think it was an opportunity, but there are still three months of
competition to go and this will go a long way to deciding if I
go to Euro 2012 or not."
The match against the 2011 Copa America semi-finalists was a
last chance for coach Vicente del Bosque to experiment before he
names his roster for the European Championships and he started
with Fernando Llorente as a lone striker in the absence of
Torres and the injured David Villa.
Llorente sent a couple of tame headers goalwards in the
first half but was otherwise quiet and was comprehensively
upstaged by Soldado, who replaced him at the break.
Venezuela barely threatened Spain's goal, their best chance
coming as early as the third minute when Jose Salomon Rondon's
fierce strike was beaten away by Iker Casillas.
The home side's mesmerising one-touch passing and solid
defence easily kept the South Americans at bay as Spain, playing
in a new and unfamiliar sky-blue strip, celebrated their 600th
match with a thumping victory.
"It's fair to say that we met all our objectives for
tonight's match," Del Bosque told a news conference.
"Venezuela made things hard for us for the first 30 minutes
but little by little our players started to impose their
quality," he said.
Asked about Soldado's performance, the former Real Madrid
coach added: "Soldado finished off what his team mates created
for him and he did so very well.
"It would be unjust to make useless comparisons with other
players just now.
"We'll look at what Roberto Soldado did tonight with
objectivity and we have two months to assess our options and
those in good condition will be in the squad."
Venezuela coach Cesar Farias, whose side are in a good
position to qualify for the World Cup finals for the first time,
said the team had suffered setbacks before and had shown it was
capable of recovering.
"We have to recognise that they beat us easily, that we
couldn't get in the game and they overran us," he said.
"The cleanest thing is internal competition and that's what
seems to keep Spain going," he added.
"A new striker comes on and scores goals. They all want to
get in the final squad."
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