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Nolito? Yes-lito! How Spain are hitting high notes

After watching Nolito and Álvaro Morata help to shred Turkey on Friday, team reporter Graham Hunter thinks Spain are back in their daunting groove again.

Nolito's star is rising with Spain
Nolito's star is rising with Spain ©AFP/Getty Images

It might seem a truism to say that Spain look like a team in their pomp after securing a 3-0 win and qualification for the knockout round after just two matches, but there's so, so much more to indicate that their football engine is purring – tooled to perfection, tuned to high performance and working off meticulous data analysis.

Take Vicente del Bosque. He never had a single doubt neither about starting this tournament with Nolito on the left wing and Álvaro Morata at centre-forward, nor about retaining them after each of them performed ably, but not exceptionally, in the first game. Fans and media had posed questions about both positions.

The general buzz was: "Nolito might not quite be at the level of Andrés Iniesta and David Silva when it comes to neat possession interchange" and "Is Morata prolific enough?".

Del Bosque was completely clear. He knew the massive value of little Nolito came in bumper-sized packages. Not only is he an old-school footballer who lives to torment his full-back, he is what the Spanish call a 'pierna cambiada' – a right-footed player who operates on the left.

Morata: It was an almost complete performance
Morata: It was an almost complete performance

Just look at the Turkish right-back and his dilemma for the first goal. Arda Turan has not run with Jordi Alba and that means Gökhan Gönül is completely exposed. Not only is it 2v1 but Alba is going wide and Nolito inside.

It gives the Celta Vigo winger time to receive from Alba, change from his left foot to his right (in almost the identical position to where Iniesta fed Gerard Piqué the goal against the Czechs) and set up Morata in a very similar position to where Piqué got the winner on Monday.

Nolito attacks players, he twists them. Consider how his inside run drags Gökhan out of position again so that Alba may overlap and tee up Morata's 3-0 goal.

The 29-year-old is tricky and direct, shoots whenever possible and had a hand in all three goals. Kudos to the coach for spotting that this guy was a partial answer to the absence of Fernando Torres and David Villa.

Nolito has five goals in the last five Spain matches, Morata four in three. But there's more. A lot more.

Prior to Friday's Group D game in Nice, Del Bosque commented to me: "No matter what we do to Turkey, they'll keep on trying to compete." In no sense was it a putdown for Fatih Terim's men, but the phrase spoke volumes.

The work that he, his assistant Toni Grande and their chief analyst Antolín Gonzalo had done was millimetre-perfect. Del Bosque absolutely expected to win. He knew from his preparations that his team worked harder and would move the ball quickly enough to open Turkey up.

Spain, the entire playing and coaching staff, are in the groove. Europe beware.