Lucas Vazquez made his 56th appearance for club and country this season in Spain’s 1-0 win against Iran and arrived in Russia fresh from lifting a third consecutive Champions League trophy with Real Madrid. But just how good is he?
This is certainly Andres Iniesta’s final tournament, and it’s likely to be David Silva’s final one, too, which means an exciting number of young Spanish talents are going to see more action in the first team.
Isco put on a memorable show against Portugal in Spain’s 3-3 draw in their opening game, and Marco Asesnio has scored some scintillating goals in the Champions League with Real Madrid, but always waiting in the wings has been Lucas Vazquez.
Vazquez, or Lucas as he is sometimes known, emerged as one of Zinadine Zidane’s golden players and had the highest number of wins of any Real Madrid player under the French manager.
The 26-year-old is a selfless winger who is fit, strong on the ball, creative, and most importantly reliable. He started on the right side of an attacking three and proved a useful source of crosses to Diego Costa or Sergio Ramos and Gerard Pique when they ventured forward.
However, what became increasingly clear is how Vazquez is only good at everything. Good, not great. He kept the ball ticking over nicely in the fancy the way that Spain do, but when it came to trying to unlock Iran’s stubborn defence, it was other midfielders that took the initiative.
Despite having over 80 per cent of the ball, Spain on managed one shot on target before the break and statistics like that means they cannot afford to carry passengers with Asensio, Koke and Thiago watching on from the bench.
Silva, Isco and Iniesta all started to adjust their creative settings to try more inventive and creative passes as they pushed back their opposition. Vazquez watched on.
With 50 minutes of patient possession behind them, Vazquez almost opened the scoring but Alireza Beiranvand saved from Isco then palmed the ball away before the winger could get a toe to it and divert it in.
That was the only time in the match that Vazquez looked like he could really have an impact on the game. It almost summed up his performance: glimpses of potential but in the end just not quite enough.
Perhaps it was the wrong game to give Vazquez a deserved start. Iran defended with a flat back six and left absolutely no space for runners in behind, space Vazquez likes to exploit.
His ineffectiveness against a deep defence is why Zidane favoured him as a substitute, to come on when the game is a little more stretched and space opens up for quick players to exploit. His time might come when Spain’s opponents show more attacking desire and leave themselves a little more vulnerable, but against Iran it was an underwhelming display.