"I had four shots on target and they all went in," beamed Spain's 21-year-old striker Rodrigo after the SL Benfica man dealt Denmark a devastating blow in the play-off opener in Burgos.
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After registering four goals in Spain's outstanding 5-0 UEFA European Under-21 Championship play-off first-leg win against Denmark in Burgos, striker Rodrigo said: "When we play like that, it's hard to keep up with us."
The SL Benfica forward managed hat-tricks against Georgia and Estonia as the holders emerged unbeaten from qualifying round Group 5, but went one better at a rain-soaked Municipal El Plantío, with La Rojita taking a giant step towards next summer's finals in Israel. "I'm really happy as the play-off is practically decided now," the 21-year-old Rio de Janeiro-born player said. "I had three shots against Switzerland [in the group stage] and hit the post with all three, tonight it was different."
The former Bolton Wanderers FC loanee had warmed up for Thursday's game by scoring his fourth Portuguese Liga goal of the season in Benfica's 2-1 home victory over SC Beira-Mar, yet even he was surprised by his strike rate against Denmark. "
I've scored two hat-tricks in the past but I've never scored so many goals in such a short space of time as I did tonight. I had four shots on target and they all went in."
Morten Wieghorst's visitors could not have envisaged such a devastating outcome to the match, especially after Spain goalkeeper David de Gea was twice called into action to deny the Danes in the opening exchanges. The 2011 champions quickly found their feet, however, and established a 3-0 lead within five first-half minutes thanks to Rodrigo's clinical finishing; his initial quick-fire treble came in the 16th, 18th and 21st minutes.
"We were working well together, and we almost always score early goals," said the ex-Real Madrid CF youth-teamer, who joined Benfica in 2010/11. "We knew it was important to start strongly, especially playing at home in front of our fans, and our attitude was key to the match. When we play like that it's hard to keep up with us. We didn't give Denmark time to breathe."
Despite achieving such a commanding position ahead of Tuesday's return in Aalborg, Spain coach Julen Lopetegui insisted his charges had to stay focused. "There is still a game left to play and we must treat it with the same intensity," last summer's UEFA European U19 Championship-winning trainer said. "We haven't qualified yet and it would be a mistake to think otherwise. Denmark are a strong rival and one we must continue to take seriously."