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Hit for six: Argentina humiliated 6-1 in friendly against Spain

Jorge Sampaoli's team were thrashed by a rampant Spain in tonight's international friendly. It was a humbling night, one that casts a dark, gloomy shadow over Argentina's World Cup hopes.

Tuesday 27 March, 2018
Argentina's players react after Spain score another goal during the 6-1 international friendly match against Spain at the Wanda Metropolitano stadium in Madrid.
Argentina's players react after Spain score another goal during the 6-1 international friendly match against Spain at the Wanda Metropolitano stadium in Madrid. Foto:AP-Francisco Seco

Cue collective meltdown.

Argentina were humiliated tonight, receiving a 6-1 thrashing at the hands of Spain, a result that casts a dark shadow over the team's chances of lifting the World Cup in Russia later this year. 

To put things in context, the result is the joint worst in the history of the national team, drawing level with defeats to Czechoslovakia (6-1 in 1958), Uruguay (5-0 in 1959), Colombia (5-0 in 1993) and Bolivia (6-1 in 2009).

With an injured Lionel Messi rested, the Albiceleste were thumped at the Wanda Metropolitano Stadium in Madrid, with Spain's Francisco "Isco" Alarcon leading the way by scoring a hat-trick. They took just 12 minutes to fall behind to a goal by Diego Costa. Thiago Alcântara and half-time substitute Iago Aspas also scored for Spain.

While Spain remain undefeated in 18 matches under Julen Lopetegui and have strengthened its credentials as one of the favourites for the title in Russia, Jorge Sampaoli will face more doubts about Argentina's chances to finally win a World Cup title – with or without Messi.

The captain watched from the stands as Spain dealt Argentina a devastating blow, in the last match before their coaches pick their squads for this summer's World Cup.

A minor leg problem had also kept Messi from playing in Argentina's 2-0 win over Italy in Manchester, England, on Friday.

Sampaoli had said on Monday that his star player was better and that he expected him to play against Spain, but he left him out of his squad come match time.

The pain in Spain

The night couldn't have gone much better for Spain. Costa was back in the starting line-up for the first time in eight international matches and he marked his return with the opening goal as Spain ripped apart an opponent supposedly also in the running for the title in Russia.

Isco then scored twice either side of what proved to be no more than a consolation goal from Argentina's Nicolas Otamendi, before Thiago Alcântara added a fourth before the hour. 

Substitute Iago Aspas made it five, latching onto a long pass downfield from David de Gea, only for Isco to score his third, and Spain's sixth, with 16 minutes left. 

But as irresistable as Spain were going forward, Argentina were lamentable at the back and Sampaoli will have serious questions to answer with the World Cup less than three months away. 

As well as Messi, Sergio Agüero and Ángel Di María were also out injured but the Albiceleste's problem was less creating chances than containing Spain's as Costa, Isco and Marco Asensio simply proved too quick to catch. 

For Spain, while Asensio is likely still to give way to David Silva, Costa showed he is ready to be Spain's main striker in Russia, this game completing his reintegration after an autumn disrupted by his Chelsea departure. 

Harrowing night

It was a harrowing night for Argentina but perhaps not a good one either for Alvaro Morata. Costa's goal, coming before Aspas entered as a substitute to score one and set up two more, meant the Chelsea forward was hardly missed. 

Without Messi, Gonzalo Higuaín was the visitors' principle threat up front, with Ever Banega, Maximiliano Meza and Giovani Lo Celso given the chance to impress behind him in a 4-2-3-1 formation. Racing's Lautaro Martínez, in great form, only came off the bench toward the end of the match.

After a relativel bright start, Argentina conceded twice in quick succession before facing the humiliation of Spanish supporters celebrating their team's every pass with less than 30 minutes gone.

First, Costa put his body where others might not, bundling the ball in between the leaping Fabricio Bustos and goalkeeper Sergio Romero, the latter forced off as a result and replaced by Willy Caballero. 

Cabellero was then at fault for Spain's second as well, as his poor clearance landed at the feet of Thiago. Three passes later, the last from Asensio, allowed Isco to sidefoot home. 

Argentina pulled one back before half-time when Otamendi headed in Banega's cross but their defence would only keep them competitive for so long. 

With Costa substituted, Aspas made an instant impact, twice breaching the offside trap before setting up first Isco and then Thiago for 4-1 after 55 minutes. 

Otamendi headed against the post after he was again left unmarked from a corner but it was not long before Spain were in again. 

This time they needed only one pass as De Gea launched one ball downfield and Aspas was free to finish. Isco guided into the corner for his hat-trick in the 74th minute.

Most of the Albiceleste's players looked relieved when the final whistle blew.

Now the inquest will start, with all eyes on Sampaoli.

- TIMES/AP/AFP

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