Spain moved closer to securing the top spot in Group A of the Euro 2024 qualifiers as they effortlessly claimed a 3-1 victory over Cyprus on Thursday.
With 18 points and only one game remaining, they are now two points ahead of second-placed Scotland, who, despite having already qualified, settled for a 2-2 draw against Georgia.
Manager Luis de la Fuente opted to rest key players against Cyprus, and his second-string team faced little resistance from the hosts. In the fifth minute, 16-year-old Lamine Yamal skillfully opened the scoring, dribbling past a defender and the goalkeeper before slotting the ball into the net from close range.
Reflecting on his goal, Yamal expressed, “I saw the goalkeeper in front of me and I cut back until I was alone. Happy to help the team and for the beautiful goal.” This marked Yamal’s second goal for Spain, following his debut as the country’s youngest international and goal-scorer at the age of 16 years and 57 days in the previous Euro 2024 qualifier against Georgia.
Real Sociedad captain Mikel Oyarzabal extended Spain’s lead with a well-placed finish under the goalkeeper’s legs in the 22nd minute. Although initially ruled out for a suspected offside, VAR confirmed the goal. Real Madrid forward Joselu secured the third goal six minutes later with a first-touch finish from a corner, as Spain dominated their fragile opponents, who sit at the bottom of the group with no points from eight games.
After halftime, Spain eased off the gas, allowing Cyprus to score a late consolation goal through Kostas Pileas in a counter-attack.
Reflecting on the match, Manager Luis de la Fuente acknowledged the challenges of maintaining focus throughout the game: “To play football is very difficult, and it’s difficult to win comfortably, scoring a lot of goals. The opponent also plays, and they want to please their fans, so we need to be focused all the time. In the second half, we didn’t play as well as we did in the first, and they had their chances later on. That’s a lesson we should learn.”