Ferran Torres pulled at his red shirt and kissed it, just above the badge. There is a star on it and there is a star inside it too, applause accompanying him as he stood there wearing a huge smile and trying to comprehend what was happening. The Manchester City attacker, still only 20 years old, playing his seventh international game, had just scored his third goal of an astonishing night in which Spain reached the final four of the Nations League by crushing Germany with the kind of performance for which the word perfect would not be out of place.
It was the fifth goal, and it wasn’t even the last. With two minutes remaining, Spain walked the ball in again, José Luis Gayá setting up the substitute Mikel Oyarzabal to complete a 6-0 victory. Yes, six. Against Germany. This was historic, the kind of occasion that 65,000 people should spent the rest of their lives boasting they were at. Instead, barely 300 can do so, but they will. Joachim Löw’s team were not just defeated for the first time in 13 games, they were demolished. Spain’s doubts disintegrated; just listing the opportunities would fill this page and the next and by the end, it seemed bizarre to recall that 90 minutes before there had been nerves. Most felt that the need to win meant that this was a task beyond la selección, who arrived in Seville on a three-game run without a victory – their longest in 18 years.
Yet Luis Enrique had said it was “almost better” that they had to win. That way, he reasoned, there would be no doubts: they would have to go for it. And, boy, did they. In wave after wave and from the first whistle to the last, they tore at Germany, who were left wondering where they were coming from. The answer, as it turned out, was everywhere – although to start with it was on the right where they were must incisive. There, Torres repeatedly ripped into Philipp Max.
Inside him, Koke took control, ably supported by Rodri. Watching the Atlético midfielder dominate, there was just one doubt: how could it have been two years since his last call up? And yet it would be wrong to single out individuals: they were all superb. Even two first enforced substitutions, Sergio Canales and Sergio Ramos injured, did not slow them down. Canales’s fantastic replacement, Fabián Ruiz, provided the first goal when his deep corner was headed in superbly by Morata.
They had only been playing 15 minutes but it had been coming, Manuel Neuer saving from Ramos in the sixth minute and Spain refusing to let up. Torres especially: he pulled one past the far post, provided another for Morata to score a second that was ruled out, and then was stopped by Neuer. He slipped to his knees, shocked that he had been denied but it did not last. Almost immediately, Koke’s inswinging ball was headed off the bar by Dani Olmo and Torres smashed in the rebound.
Gorgeous footwork from Torres and Ruiz drew applause from this almost empty arena, the silence mostly filled by the sound of crickets and the caress of the ball, before Rodri guided in a header to make it 3-0 by half-time and 13-1 in shots. It looked easy but there was no easing up. Spain were enjoying it too much. Olmo opened the second half by racing away only for Neuer to save and Morata was next, wide spaces opening and the feeling building that Spain could run through Germany at will. So, they did. Ruiz set off next, releasing Gayá to fly past and set up Torres – one of two Spaniards alone in the penalty area – to score the fourth. The City man might have made it five from Koke’s backheel soon after and did make it five with 19 minutes left. Again Ruiz provided and Torres bent a cool shot into the net from the left edge of the area. As the few people here stood clapping in admiration, Torres was withdrawn alongside Olmo and Morata. Their work was done; their teammates, though, still had not finished with Germany