Spain beats Norway in De la Fuente's 1st match as manager
MALAGA, Spain (AP) — A winning debut for coach Luis de la Fuente with Spain. And a magical one for striker Joselu.
Joselu scored in the 84th and 85th minutes — shortly after coming off the bench — to help seal Spain’s 3-0 win over Norway on Saturday in De la Fuente’s first game in charge.
Dani Olmo had scored early as Spain opened its qualifying campaign for the 2024 European Championship with the victory over a Norway squad that was without star forward Erling Haaland because of a groin injury.
“I still don’t believe it. I scored twice in my debut,” the 32-year-old Joselu said. “This is everything a player can ask for. Hard work has its rewards. I feel like an 18-year-old kid.”
Before entering the match in the 81st, Joselu kissed his shin guards, which have a picture of his late father on one of them and his wife, kids and mother on the other.
“They all give me strength,” he said.
The Germany-born Espanyol striker became the first Spain player to score twice on his debut since Fernando Morientes in 1998.
“It’s our job to know the players, but all credit goes to Joselu,” De la Fuente said. “We gave him the opportunity and I’m happy for him and for all the players.”
It was Spain’s 23rd straight win in a European qualifier at home.
Norway, trying to make it to a major tournament for the first time since Euro 2000, remains with only one win in nine matches against Spain.
La Roja arrived with a squad overhauled by coach De la Fuente after he was promoted from Spain’s under-21 team to replace Luis Enrique in December following the team’s elimination against Morocco in the round of 16 of the World Cup.
De la Fuente made it a priority to solve the scoring problems of a squad that managed only one win in Qatar after dominating possession in most games but failing to create many significant scoring opportunities.
Spain again struggled against Norway, though, and was unable to capitalize on its chances during most of the match as the visitors played solidly from the start.
“It’s normal to suffer in matches at this level,” De la Fuente said. “I’m happy with the attitude that we showed, it gives me reason to be very optimistic. We will keep improving.”
Olmo put Spain ahead in the 13th minute by redirecting Alejandro Balde’s low cross. Joselu, who replaced starting striker Álvaro Morata, sealed the victory with a header and a close-range shot.
One of Norway’s best opportunities to equalize had gone to Real Sociedad striker Alexander Sorloth. His volley from inside the area went just wide in the 80th.
Spain has won four of its last five games against Norway. The sides are paired together in Euro qualifying for the second tournament in a row.
Spain’s next match is on Tuesday at Scotland. Norway will be at Georgia. Group A also includes Cyprus. The top two teams in each group advance.
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