Spain’s WC warning

MADRID – Spain sent out a warning to their World Cup rivals as Isco grabbed a hat-trick in a 6-1 thrashing of Argentina, who were missing the injured Lionel Messi, in a friendly on Tuesday.

On what was supposed to be a historic night for Argentina captain Javier Mascherano, who joined Javier Zanetti on 142 caps as his country’s record appearance holder, things quickly turned sour as Diego Costa, Thiago and Iago Aspas also found the net.

It will have made uneasy viewing for coach Jorge Sampaoli and emphasised more than ever how reliant his side are on their talisman Messi, who has been struggling with a muscle problem.

Should the Barcelona forward be missing at any point during this year’s finals in Russia, Argentina are likely to struggle judging by their meek surrender in the Spanish capital.

Without Messi on the pitch there was room for someone to take the game by the scruff of the neck and Real Madrid’s outstanding Isco filled the void.

The diminutive midfielder dictated play from the centre of the pitch throughout as Spain ruthlessly and consistently exploited the high Argentine defensive line.

“I’m not going to discover anything else about how much I like Isco and having him here with us,” Spain coach Julen Lopetegui said.

“We’ve beaten a team with a strong history who got to the final of the last World Cup. Obviously, once we’re there you start from scratch and they had a couple of important absentees but we’re happy – it’s a real match and a deserved win.”