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'I felt like standing up and applauding': Isco's performance against Italy was just stunning

The Real Madrid player scored twice but it was his overall contribution that stood out.

Image: Paul White

SPAIN BRUSHED ITALY aside in their World Cup qualifier on Saturday, racking up a 3-0 win to move three points clear at the top of Group G.

In the aftermath, one man has received all of the plaudits after a remarkable individual display: Real Madrid’s Isco.

He scored twice while Alvaro Morata grabbed Spain’s third in the second-half but it was the overall contribution from the 25-year-old that has people raving.

His first goal arrived on 13 minutes, expertly curling a free-kick over the wall and past Gigi Buffon for the opener.

But he was electric in possession, dropping deeper and linking up regularly with Andres Iniesta to dictate the tempo and rhythm of Spain’s approach. While Iniesta and others provided a platform, Isco was able to turn, get past players and open the game up when needed.

In tight areas, he made ball retention look so easy and effortlessly evaded challenges before laying off and making himself available in another passing lane.

His second goal came on 40 minutes, picking up Iniesta’s pass on the edge of the area, cutting inside and driving a low left-foot strike to Buffon’s bottom corner.

One moment in the second-half stood out.

Isco had already dominated the Italian midfield – particularly Marco Verratti – embarrassing them with his touches and movement and directness.

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But, at one stage, as he held off one blue shirt, the snarling, tenacious PSG midfielder swooped in and looked set to take possession. Isco just rolled his studs along the top of the ball, stuck it between Verratti’s legs and raced clear before very nearly setting up Italy for a third goal.

It arrived eventually courtesy of substitute Morata, though Isco was already off the pitch by that stage – much to the relief of the Azzurri and Verrati in particular.

Afterwards, Italian boss Giampiero Ventura was fulsome in his praise.

“Isco is a top player,” he said.

“He is a great player who did incredible things.

“I just remember his nutmeg in midfield. When I saw that, I felt like standing up and applauding.”

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Eoin O'Callaghan

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