'Masterpiece' - Spain thrash Argentina 6-1 without injured Lionel Messi
The Spanish media hailed the country's national team and its hat trick hero, Isco, after the impressive 6-1 win over a Lionel Messi-less Argentina side in Tuesday's international friendly in Madrid.
In a glitzy World Cup warmup, Real Madrid midfielder Isco stole the limelight against the 2014 World Cup runners-up, who played without superstar Messi as the forward was unavailable with a muscular problem and watched on from the Wanda Metropolitano stands.
Spain, who had drawn 1-1 at World Cup holders Germany last Friday, are unbeaten in their last 18 games and Tuesday's performance again highlighted the ambitions of Julen Lopetegui's side in Russia this summer, much to the delight of the Spanish press.
"Spain's first chapter was overwhelming, with Isco and Asensio in the academy of imagination. The second one was demolishing... Messi left his place 15 minutes before the end, Argentina had done that long before, unable to be keep up. Isco not only confirmed that he is a great player but that he is a very different player when he plays for Spain that when he does for Real Madrid. Three goals, maximum involvement and crucial from the first minute until when he was replaced."
AS: Isco and Ole!
"Messi was missing, which was considered as taking away the sugar, caffeine and calories of the game. It was not like that. It was more of a World Cup game than a warmup. Argentina were close to their limit and have arrived at the conviction that, at this stage, Spain are unapproachable to them. Isco again delivered. It felt extreme the orphanhood of Argentina without Messi. Spain are right now more talented, better trained for a conventional fight. In a nuclear one, they will always have Messi."
Diario Sport: Messi already knows who is favourite
"Spain enchanted with a finesse and touch play against a very poor rival without Leo. The Spanish national team gave new reasons to think that a second star can be added at the Russia World Cup. La Roja destroyed an Argentina without Messi, who didn't play as a precaution, with talent and a touch play that rivals none in current football."
Argentina's press, meanwhile, summarised the concern of a nation.
Clarin: A thrashing that hurts and fills with doubts the future of the national team
"It's impossible to guess the consequences from this slap that our fragile Argentina national team received at the overwhelming hands of a merciless Spain. But there will be, that's undoubted. A 6-1 defeat leaves fingerprints and injured. It's not going to be the same, the relationship between the team and the coach and above all, the squad list that the coach had in mind to take to the World Cup will not be identical. Spain's coherent and sustained project provokes jealousy, but more so for certain individual reason than emphasize those distances (between Argentina and Spain). There, in the players, you can also understand that historic 6-1 (defeat). Argentina for some time now don't find first world class players in crucial positions. How many Argentinian players are close to (Andres) Iniesta's talent to move and organise play? How many born in this country get close to what Isco offers?"
Diario Ole: The only consolation for the 6-1 loss, there are three Messis missing
"The dream of building a team with less than 80 days is that. The slap that Spain gave us once again puts Argentina's luck exclusively on that animal of the ball that Messi is. More than the poor individual performances, the fact that we faced one of the best national teams, that we are building a group, Leo was the one that took us to the World Cup with that starring role (hat-trick) against Ecuador (Argentina's final qualifier). Let's hope the dream does come true and the team appears, but in view of this devastating scenario that this tremendous football beating leaves us, the national team's chances appear to be each time more restricted to what Messi can do first, then what Messi can do later and what Messi can do after that."
La Nacion: Humiliated in Madrid, the 6-1 defeat to Spain raises alarm bells with 78 days to go to the World Cup
"Without Messi there is no paradise nor aspirations: the national team is just one among a bunch. Sampaoli will see a thousand times the video of the de-stabilizing 6-1. He will draw his conclusions, will make decisions. Little or nothing will be as it was before the night at the Wanda Metropolitano. It's a knockout punch but they have to get up."
Adriana Garcia is a Valencia-based football writer who covers La Liga for ESPN FC.