Following a difficult start to the UEFA Euro 2020, Spain finally found their groove on Wednesday as they defeated Slovakia 5-0 in their final Group E encounter to seal passage through to the knockout stages.
After back-to-back draws against Sweden and Poland, the last clash versus Slovakia was a do-or-die one for La Roja. And, they looked in fine rhythm from the get-go as a Martin Dubravka own goal put them in front in the first half before Aymeric Laporte equalised on the cusp of half-time.
Pablo Sarabia and Ferran Torres added to Spain’s tally in the second period before another own goal, this time from Juraj Kucka, added more gloss to the scoreline.
It was a commanding display from the 2010 FIFA World Cup winners, with the whole team, barring Alvaro Morata, rising to the occasion. However, one man who played a crucial role in the victory for Spain was captain Sergio Busquets.
The 32-year-old Barcelona midfielder made his first appearance of the UEFA Euro 2020 after missing the first two games due to coronavirus. Having been in isolation for a period of over ten days, the veteran star returned to training last week and in his first appearance, helped Spain control the game with an authoritative display in the middle.
Named the Star of the Match for his performance, Busquets got emotional when speaking to the media after the contest (h/t Voetbal International), as he reflected on his time in isolation.
“I’ve had a pretty bad time. I was at home for ten days and didn’t know whether I could return or not. There was nothing I could do,” the Spain captain said.
Prior to this game, there were a lot of question marks over Spain and their performances. Busquets, though, dismissed the naysayers, saying:
“This team is mentally very strong. We have grown together. This victory has boosted our confidence considerably. This is an incentive for everyone. We must continue in this way.”
The win means Spain qualified second in Group E, and will now face Croatia in their Round of 16 contest on Monday in Copenhagen, where Busquets will once again have a critical role to play.