Triumphant return for Alcacer

  • The striker is back in the Roja side after a two-and-a-half-year absence

  • Player in form with Borussia Dortmund; scored three goals in two games for Spain

  • Luis Enrique signed him in 2016 when coach of Barcelona

1 minute and 35 seconds. That is how long Paco Alcacer needed from coming on to the pitch to reducing the deficit for Spain against England (1-3) with his first touch.

Marco Asensio swung in a corner and the forward rose at the near post to direct a glancing header past the helpless Jordan Pickford in the 57th minute.

The goal gave a shot in the arm to a subdued Spanish side that had conceded three goals in a first half to forget. The Roja reaction, nevertheless, would come too late to deny England, who were lethal on the break in their 3-2 UEFA Nations League victory on Monday.

However, one thing is clear after this bittersweet doubleheader for Spain: Paco Alcacer is back with a bang.

Striker’s contribution

  • 11 October: Wales 1-4 Spain – ⚽️⚽️ Alcacer (8’ and 29’)

  • 15 October: Spain 2-3 England – ⚽️ Alcacer (57’)

Vicente del Bosque gave the player his senior debut with Spain in a friendly with France after the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil™. He went on to use him during qualifying for UEFA EURO 2016, but omitted him from the squad for the finals. Before this week, Alcacer last played for La Roja in March 2016, making it two-and-a-half years without a call-up.

That period included a complicated spell with Barcelona, where a lack of playing time affected his confidence and goalscoring, culminating in a move to the German Bundesliga this August. It now appears to have been an inspired decision, with the Valencia native having scored seven times in just four games for Borussia Dortmund – an average of a goal every 24 minutes. Moreover, three of those goals came in the 31 minutes he spent on the pitch against Augsburg.

During his unveiling as Spain’s new coach in July, Luis Enrique spoke of a list of 73 potential names for his team. And while he did not include the striker in his first squad, he later signalled his interest, saying: "since Paco Alcacer signed for Dortmund, my list has grown to 74."

CARDIFF, WALES - OCTOBER 11:  Paco Alcacer of Spain (9) scores his team's third goal past Wayne Hennessey of Wales during the International Friendly match between Wales and Spain on October 11, 2018 in Cardiff, United Kingdom.  (Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images)

The presence of the 25-year-old in Enrique’s second squad and his extraordinary recent performances suggest his inclusion could become a regular thing. “Suddenly, everything is going in. That's down to confidence,” said the player in a recent interview with ABC.

Enrique has never hidden the fact that he likes Alcacer’s qualities – the ability to play in tight or open spaces, the instinct to be in the right place at the right time, and the ability to still be decisive when not instrumental in games. Indeed, it was Enrique who brought the player to the Camp Nou, even if he did not subsequently give him an extended run in the first team.

So could Alcacer be the solution for a team that has been discussing the centre forward question since the departure of David Villa? Time will tell, but for now, the player is relishing his opportunity: "You never know if (a call-up) is the first of many or your last, but being in the Spain team is as good as it gets in football.”

Did you know?

  • Paco Alcacer has scored 9 goals in 15 games for Spain

  • His strike against England made it 10 goals from 10 shots on target so far this season

  • At youth level, he won the UEFA European U-19 Championship in 2011 and 2012