Silva sparks Spain's wheels of recovery
Silva leads rebuilding process, but Costa's form remains a concern
(Jordi Alba 5, Andreas Iniesta 30-pen)
Spain still find the long shadow of the disastrous 2014 World Cup campaign hard to shake off.
But, on the field, the wheels of recovery have already turned.
As all of Europe whipped themselves into a frenzy over Euro 2016 qualification over the past week, it is easy to forget that Spain are the holders.
Following yesterday morning's (Singapore time) 2-0 win over Slovakia, they are well on track to get the chance to defend their crown in France next year.
By avenging the shock loss to the Slovaks last October, Spain moved top of Group C, ahead of Slovakia on goal difference.
At the Nuevo Carlos Tartiere, Oviedo, where their football freely flowed, they stamped their class.
From the ashes, they have somehow reignited the fire.
David Silva provided the spark.
A sublime loft over the Slovakian backline picked out the head of the onrushing Jordi Alba, who emphatically nodded in to give the hosts a fifth-minute lead.
Their second goal was a tad sly, as striker Diego Costa appeared to have conned the referee into awarding Spain a penalty, which Andres Iniesta coolly converted.
No one, though, would argue about the result.
This was a win Spain fully deserved for their enterprising play and spirited approach.
Silva, Costa and Pedro rotating freely among themselves in the front three served up football of such fluidity and dynamism that Slovakia could only watch and learn.
Silva, in particular, knocked loudest on coach Vicente del Bosque's door.
Seven years after playing a key role in their Euro 2008 triumph - the catalyst for their world domination - the Manchester City man still can't say with confidence that he is an automatic starter.
But, if he keeps up with this performance, the 29-year-old can be sure he will be one of the first names to be pencilled into the starting line-up if Spain make it to France.
His superb footwork in tight spaces was at times a marvel to behold.
On one occasion, he rode four challenges in the penalty box, in quick succession, before seeing his shot well blocked.
He is also in fine company.
Attacking midfielder Iniesta may be on the wrong side of 30, but still possesses mesmerising technical ability to split defences open in one moment of individual brilliance.
Defensive midfielder Sergio Busquets sat deeper and kept things simple, saving himself for the occasions when Slovakia found the chances to break at speed.
A defence led by Sergio Ramos survived a couple of scares, but that was only to be expected considering Spain's adventurous game plan.
If the true quality of a team can be found on the bench, then Spain are bound to make their rivals turn green with envy.
Koke, Santi Cazorla and Paco Alcacer had to make do with cameo appearances, while the likes of David de Gea, Cesar Azpilicueta, Juan Mata and Isco couldn't get any playing time.
If there was one chink in the armour, however, it was at the tip of the shape, where Costa's coarser qualities and the team's silky aesthetics have yet to strike an equilibrium.
There is still fine-tuning to be done, but there is still time, too.
Overall, del Bosque will be delighted with the strides made.
In Brazil over a year ago, his troops bore the look of battle-weary men.
Now, the Spanish Armada has regrouped, waiting to be unleashed on the continent once more.
"Against a team playing so defensively, the player who has the most difficult job is the one in his position. He moved well, he kept the defenders busy. We have to be patient. A lot of the time when he gets the ball, he has his back to goal."
— Spain coach Vicente del Bosque defending striker Diego Costa
- Luxembourg 1 Macedonia 0
- Ukraine 3 Belarus 1
- Belarus v Luxembourg
- Macedonia v Spain
- Slovakia v Ukraine
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