UEFA European Under-21 Championship holders Spain are on course to defend their title in Israel next summer after a resounding 5-0 play-off first-leg victory against Denmark.
Julen Lopetegui's side took a formidable grip on the tie thanks to a four-goal haul from Rodrigo – which included a five-minute first half hat-trick – and an Isco penalty 11 minutes from the end in Burgos.
Both teams went into Thursday's encounter boasting unbeaten records in their respective qualifying round groups, and despite the visitors enjoying a bright start in rainy conditions in northern Spain, they were eventually stunned by La Rojita – and in particular by Rodrigo's four-timer.
A product of Real Madrid CF's youth set-up, the SL Benfica forward – who has notched four Portuguese Liga goals this season – exuded confidence as he chested down Christian Tello's lofted centre from the left before thumping past goalkeeper Frederik Rønnow for Spain's opener on 16 minutes.
It got worse for Morten Wieghorst's men moments later when Málaga CF midfielder Isco confounded the Denmark defence by sliding a perfect pass along the slick surface for Rodrigo, who rounded Rønnow to score. La Rojita's seven-goal leading marksman in qualifying, the Rio de Janeiro-born player completed his treble after 21 minutes, accepting Iker Muniain's pass, turning Jannik Vestergaard and blasting high into the net from close range.
En route to qualifying for the 2011 finals in Denmark, Spain had needed a narrow win against Croatia in a play-off first leg also staged at Burgos's Municipal El Plantío. After 66 minutes of this fixture, however, the hosts were out of sight, Rodrigo side-footing in Muniain's cross for his fourth. Denmark's misery was compounded when Isco rifled in from the penalty spot after he had been fouled by Mathias Jørgensen.
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