AL­CACER MAKES HIS POINT AS SPAIN CRUSH WALES

Observer on Saturday - - Sport - AFP AFP

Paco Al­cacer made his case for a reg­u­lar place in the Spain team as the on-loan Borus­sia Dort­mund for­ward struck twice in his coun­try's 4-1 rout of Wales on Thurs­day.

With Diego Costa in­jured and Ro­drigo on the bench, Al­cacer seized his chance to im­press Spain boss Luis En­rique in his first in­ter­na­tional ap­pear­ance since March 2016.

The 25-year-old main­tained his blis­ter­ing club form to leave the Wales de­fence in tat­ters in a one-sided friendly at the Prin­ci­pal­ity Sta­dium.

Al­cacer net­ted twice in the first half to make it eight goals in 14 Spain ap­pear­ances, while Ser­gio Ramos and Marc Bar­tra were also on target for the vis­i­tors.

Al­cacer has hit seven goals in four matches for Dort­mund since join­ing on loan from Barcelona, where he strug­gled to break into the team and was rarely picked by En­rique dur­ing his time in charge at the Camp Nou.

En­rique might be hav­ing a change of heart af­ter this preda­tory dis­play from Al­cacer on an emo­tional night for Spain, who stood be­fore kick-off for a minute's

CARDIFF -

si­lence in mem­ory of the vic­tims of the Ma­jorca flood­ing which has killed 12 peo­ple.

The former world and Euro­pean cham­pi­ons en­dured a dis­ap­point­ing World Cup, stun­ningly knocked out in the last 16 by hosts Rus­sia af­ter sack­ing man­ager Julen Lopetegui on the eve of the tour­na­ment.

But En­rique has won all three of his games since tak­ing charge af­ter the World Cup and this em­phatic suc­cess was the ideal prepa­ra­tion for Spain be­fore they re­sume their Na­tions League cam­paign against Eng­land in Seville on Mon­day.

Spain beat Eng­land 2-1 at Wem­b­ley in En­rique's first match, then ham­mered World Cup fi­nal­ists Croa­tia 6-0.

"It was an in­tense game. I loved my team's at­ti­tude. They did what I wanted them to do," En­rique said.

- Joachim Loew faces the tough­est tests of his 12-year ten­ure as Ger­many head coach in the forth­com­ing Na­tions League matches away to the Nether­lands and world cham­pi­ons France.

Af­ter earn­ing him­self some breath­ing space fol­low­ing a 0-0 draw with Di­dier Deschamps' France in Mu­nich last month, Loew must take points from the Dutch to­day in Am­s­ter­dam, and French in Paris next Tues­day, to re­store his tar­nished rep­u­ta­tion.

His former cap­tain Michael Bal­lack turned on him this week, claim­ing he was ‘sur­prised’ Loew kept his job in the wake of Ger­many's World Cup de­ba­cle when they crashed out af­ter the group stage.

Jur­gen Klins­mann, Ger­many's head coach with Loew as his as­sis­tant at the 2006 World Cup, also ramped up the pres­sure by say­ing a semi-fi­nal berth at the 2020 Euro­pean Cham­pi­onship is now a ‘min­i­mum re­quire­ment’.

"It's ex­pected 'Jogi' will re­deem him­self with vic­to­ries and by reach­ing the semi-fi­nals of the next Euro," Klins­mann told mag­a­zine Sport Bild.

BER­LIN

The former striker, 54, says his post-World Cup con­ver­sa­tions with Loew con­vince him that the 58year-old still has the nec­es­sary ‘hunger’ to suc­ceed.

Un­usu­ally, Loew, who steered Ger­many to the 2014 World Cup ti­tle, has yet to face the press this week, leav­ing Toni Kroos to de­fend him on Thurs­day from Bal­lack's crit­i­cism.

CEL­E­BRA­TION: Spain’s striker Paco Al­cacer (2l) cel­e­brates scor­ing his team’s third goal, his sec­ond, with Spain’s striker Al­varo Mo­rata (l) dur­ing the in­ter­na­tional friendly foot­ball match be­tween Wales and Spain.

PRES­SURE: Ger­many coach Joachim Loew.

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