Spain coach Robert Moreno hailed Santi Cazorla as "exceptional" after the experienced midfielder scored his first international goal in four years.

Villarreal playmaker Cazorla has worked his way back into the Spain reckoning following his arduous and well-documented injury woes and was on target in the 7-0 Euro 2020 qualifying thrashing of Malta in Cadiz.

It was an evening in which Spain's old guard proved their worth amid debut goals for Pau Torres and Dani Olmo, with Jesus Navas, Raul Albiol and Sergio Ramos all impressing – a fact not lost on Robert Moreno.

"What Santi's achieving, his form, after what he went through for nearly three years with his terrible injury problems, is exceptional," said the coach.

"Without guys like him and Raul and Sergio it's hard to win tournament semi-finals and finals.

"The contribution of people like Santi, Sergio and Raul – the generation who have already won tournaments – is incalculable. 

"They have such quality and it's hard to win tournaments without their kind of experience. They've accumulated things that they not only contribute in performance but transmit to others."

Cazorla's strike followed Alvaro Morata's opener before the floodgates opened in the second half with Torres and Olmo's efforts sandwiching Pablo Sarabia's strike, before Gerard Moreno and Navas rounded out the win.

Robert Moreno was impressed with the way his side kept the pressure on their vastly outclassed opponents.

"The gap between 'big' international sides and so-called lesser nations is closing – it's very equal now across the board," he added. 

"We worked really hard on opening things up, on finishing, because we knew we wouldn't have it easy. Playing well like this and scoring lots of goals is always very welcome.

"The easiest thing in the world would have been for my players to accept three or four-nil and drop their level. But we hit seven and could easily have scored 10 – that says very good things about their mentality.

"I note that the players are remembering what I told them the last time we were together and the time before that. We are apart for weeks or months but the momentum is growing so that they put into practice what I asked of them previously. That's good.

"We think it's pretty historic that both Pau [Torres] and Dani [Olmo] both came on and scored with their first touch. It's been decades since two subs came on and scored on their debuts."

Sergio Ramos described Spain's 7-0 demolition of Malta as an "unforgettable night" as the Real Madrid star received a special salute from the Cadiz crowd on Friday.

Ramos captained Robert Moreno's side to an emphatic victory at Estadio Ramon de Carranza that ensured they will finish top of Euro 2020 qualifying Group F.

First-half goals from Alvaro Morata and Santi Cazorla put Spain, who had already booked a spot at the European Championship, on track for three points before the floodgates opened in the second half, with Pablo Sarabia, Gerard Moreno and Jesus Navas all scoring along with debutants Pau Torres and Dani Olmo.

Ramos was honoured before kick-off with a tifo in the stands, having broken Iker Casillas' record for all-time Spain appearances in last month's draw with Norway.

The 33-year-old felt he was unlikely to forget the occasion of his 169th international match.

"This win is the best present. It's a great personal joy and a good night for the national team," said Ramos.

"Malta were very deep from the first minute of the game. We paid attention to the coach's instructions, played down the wings so we could influence the play between the lines and open them up.

"I'm happy in general for the goals, for the debutants and for our qualification.

"I'm very grateful to Cadiz for their support. Hopefully, in Madrid, people will also turn out for the national team.

"We're all delighted with the victory, the atmosphere, the crowd, everything. For me, it's been an unforgettable night."

Spain conclude their qualifying campaign against Romania at the Wanda Metropolitano on Monday.

Santi Cazorla scored his first Spain goal for four years as two debutants also got on the scoresheet in a 7-0 thrashing of Malta in Euro 2020 qualifying on Friday.

The Villarreal veteran struck 41 minutes in after Alvaro Morata had put Robert Moreno's men ahead, before the floodgates opened in the second half at Estadio Ramon de Carranza.

Moreno made seven changes to the side that drew 1-1 with Sweden last time out and handed debuts to Pau Torres and Dani Olmo in the second half, each of whom repaid him with a goal.

A fine strike from Pablo Sarabia, a simple finish for the impressive Gerard Moreno and a late Jesus Navas effort secured a resounding victory in Cadiz for a Spain side who were already assured of their place at next year's finals.

Morata scored his seventh goal in as many games for club and country with 23 minutes gone, bundling a finish beyond goalkeeper Henry Bonello after Gerard Moreno turned a loose ball goalwards.

It was Morata who prevented Spain doubling their lead 27 minutes in, the striker judged to be interfering with play from an offside position when Moreno blasted home the rebound after a brilliant Bonello save denied Sergio Ramos.

Moreno somehow failed to turn Sarabia's cross into an unguarded net, but the second goal did come - and in some style - four minutes before the break. Cazorla gathered Moreno's first-time pass and slotted the ball in off the left-hand post for his first international goal since 2015.

Cazorla went off to a standing ovation eight minutes after the restart as Spain set about securing the result, with only a brilliant clearance off the line from Jonathan Caruana denying Sarabia.

Spain ended the match as a contest with two goals in the space of a minute, Torres chesting the ball in from Paco Alcacer's flick-on from a corner before Sarabia arrowed a left-footed finish into the top-right corner from Moreno's lay-off.

Olmo became the second debutant to get on the scoresheet, rounding the goalkeeper before slotting home after the Malta defence was split by Thiago's pass, and Moreno at last got his goal when he tapped in Juan Bernat's cut-back.

Navas capped a fine outing for Spain with the goal of the game five minutes from time, sending a dipping strike over the stranded Bonello from 25 yards out.

 

What does it mean? Spain's old guard give Moreno food for thought

Raul Albiol, Navas and Cazorla might have a combined age of 101, but they started this game entirely on merit given their club form.

While this was as routine as qualifying matches get, none of the three looked out of place and could all hope to be part of the final squad for next year's tournament.

Marvellous Moreno makes amends for miss

He will likely never know quite how he missed his first-half chance, but Moreno made up for it with three assists and a second-half tap-in in a lively performance down the Spain right.

Bonello bamboozled

His defence did not exactly help him in the second half, but neither did Bonello cover himself in glory, particularly with his positioning for Navas' goal.

What's next?

Spain conclude Euro 2020 qualifying against Romania in Madrid on Monday, when Malta host Norway.

Sergio Ramos has reiterated his desire to represent Spain at the 2020 Olympic Games.

Captain for club and country, Real Madrid defender Ramos is Spain's most-capped player, with 168 appearances on the international stage. 

He has never participated at the Olympics, however, where the football tournament is comprised of under-23 squads allowed to select three over-aged players.

Ramos' long-time international centre-back partner Gerard Pique has also voiced his desire to take part at Tokyo 2020, despite having retired from duty with Spain after the 2018 World Cup

"It makes me excited to always represent Spain. Like Pique, all the players who could play an Olympic Games with Spain would do it," Ramos told a news conference ahead of the Euro 2020 qualifier against Malta – Robert Moreno's side already assured of their place at the finals.

"First there is a Euro and then we will see, but I am excited because it is something I have never experienced."

Another of Ramos' colleagues during a glorious era with Spain, David Villa, announced this week that he will retire in January, concluding a career in which he became his country's all-time record goalscorer. 

"He is a legend, one of the best players in Spain and the world," Ramos said of the former Valencia and Barcelona forward, who was a key member of Spain's triumphant campaigns at Euro 2008, the 2010 World Cup and Euro 2012.

"I congratulate him on his career and for everything he has given for Spain and the teams in which he has played."

Ramos will turn 34 in March but is not considering hanging up his boots just yet. 

In fact, he has designs on taking one more shot at World Cup glory in 2022.

"As long as football allows me and I am physically well and looking forward, I will not anticipate [my retirement]," he added.

"We have a wonderful Euro ahead of us. I would like to reach the World Cup. I want to win again with Spain."

Dani Olmo has been named in the senior Spain squad for the first time for their upcoming Euro 2020 qualifiers, while Alvaro Morata has been recalled.

Coach Roberto Moreno has boosted his attacking options ahead of matches against Malta and Romania, although Spain have already booked their place in next year's finals.

That includes a call-up for Olmo, who starred as Spain won the European Under-21 Championship in June.

The winger, who came through Barcelona's famed academy, has subsequently impressed for Dinamo Zagreb in the Champions League, scoring four times through the qualifying rounds and the group stage to date.

Morata is also included, alongside Borussia Dortmund forward Paco Alcacer.

Atletico Madrid's Morata has rediscovered his best form in recent weeks, netting in five consecutive games in all competitions heading into this squad announcement.

Spain have injury concerns elsewhere in the squad, but Rodri has surprisingly been selected.

The Manchester City midfielder suffered a hamstring injury against Atalanta in the Champions League last month, and manager Pep Guardiola suggested he would not return until after the international break.

Moreno has opted against bringing in Dani Ceballos, though, after the Arsenal midfielder - who sustained a similar issue this week - was ruled out of the weekend's Premier League action.

Jordi Alba is missing, too, meaning Jose Luis Gaya comes back into the squad.


Spain squad in full: David de Gea (Manchester United), Kepa Arrizabalaga (Chelsea), Pau Lopez (Roma); Jose Luis Gaya (Valencia), Dani Carvajal (Real Madrid), Jesus Navas (Sevilla), Sergio Ramos (Real Madrid), Raul Albiol (Villarreal), Pau Torres (Villarreal), Juan Bernat (Paris Saint-Germain), Inigo Martinez (Athletic Bilbao); Rodri (Manchester City), Santi Cazorla (Villarreal), Sergio Busquets (Barcelona), Thiago Alcantara (Bayern Munich), Saul (Atletico Madrid), Fabian (Napoli); Paco Alcacer (Borussia Dortmund), Dani Olmo (Dinamo Zagreb), Alvaro Morata (Atletico Madrid), Gerard Moreno (Villarreal), Mikel Oyarzabal (Real Sociedad), Rodrigo (Valencia).

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