MADRID (Reuters) – Since the days of Raul and David Villa, Spain have not had a reliable striker to lead the line, but Paco Alcacer is making a strong case to be that player.
At the 2014 World Cup Spain picked Diego Costa, but the Atletico Madrid forward had a disappointing tournament and the same story played out again in Russia this year.
New coach Luis Enrique has turned to different options and Alcacer staked his claim for the role with two goals in an impressive showing as Spain beat Wales 4-1 in a friendly in Cardiff on Thursday.
The Borussia Dortmund striker, on loan from Barcelona, has scored nine goals in five games for club and country in a sensational streak of form.
Against Ryan Giggs’s Wales side he opened the scoring with a curled effort after eight minutes and then finished lethally after beating a static defence to the ball in the 29th minute.
They were his first goals for Spain since Oct. 9, 2015, when he struck a brace for his country against Luxembourg in the Euro 2016 qualifying campaign.
The 25-year-old notched five goals ahead of that tournament and was the team’s top goalscorer in qualifying, but the then-Valencia striker was omitted from the final squad by Vicente del Bosque.
Alcacer is determined to stay in Luis Enrique’s plans and believes the only way to do that is by maintaining his form.
“Goals are a question of form, confidence and having minutes, and training as hard as possible when things aren’t going well,” Alcacer told reporters after the Wales match.
“To stay in the national team I have to maintain this dynamic.”
Alcacer joined Barcelona under Luis Enrique in 2016 although did not make a lot of appearances due to the presence of the powerful attacking trident of Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar.
Even after the latter’s departure to Paris St Germain, new Barca coach Ernesto Valverde used a 4-4-2 formation featuring Messi and Suarez, leaving Alcacer stuck on the bench.
It is a different story now under Luis Enrique with Spain, as the coach rebuilds the squad following three failures at major tournaments after the 2010 World Cup win and Euro 2008 and 2012 triumphs.
Alcacer is determined to become an integral part of Spain’s new era.
(Reporting by Rik Sharma; Editing by Toby Davis)