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Luis Nieto | 15/11/2012
Spain eased to victory in a game with few points of interest, in a stadium with swathes of empty seats, as the Panamá government spent a generous amount of money for a game which few people could afford to watch. With prices of tickets to see the world and European champions ranging from 45 to 1,200 dollars (the latter VIP seats), baseball's dominance as the number one sport in this part of the world is unlikely to be threatened.
But nonetheless, in spite of the 11-hour flight to get to Panamá, Spain's players showed the upmost professionalism in the game, and proved that the champions never sleep, even in games of no importance, played in 30 degree heat following a tropical storm.
Andrés Iniesta put in an exceptional performance, replicating his form on the other side of the Atlantic. He took on the role Xavi usually plays for Spain, showing he is a footballer for every occasion. All Spain's best moments came through Iniesta, including the first two goals, which had his stamp all over them.
Pedro's opening goal came from a superb one-two with Iniesta, while for Spain's second, the Barça midfielder scaled the byline in search of a gap in the Panamá defence, eventually finding Villa free in the six yard box, a distance from which the Asturian was never going to miss.
Pedro played this inconvenient game with all the enthusiasm of a child, and netted two goals. His first was a well struck right-footed effort, his second (Spain's third on the night) more cultured, as he feigned with his body to fool the goalkeeper and slip a pass from Juan Mata into an empty net. The Canary Islander has now scored seven goals in his last four games for 'La Roja'.
Spain lined up with six Barcelona players and just one Madrid player - Raúl Albiol - with Beñat playing in front of Sergio Busquets, who had no problem quelling Panamá's weak pressure, which presented Spain with ideal conditions to construct the play. Victor Valdés, in a rare appearance in the starting line up, had nothing to do for the entirety of the game, so dominant were Spain. Villa, wearing the captain's armband and playing in the unfamiliar role of the main striker in the first half, showed good movements and scored a solitary goal, but shifted back to his usual position on the left when Soldado came on in the second half
In the second half, Del Bosque threw on the big names, Iker Casillas and Sergio Ramos, to increase their number of appearances in a Spain shirt. Casillas, who took the captain's armband off Villa, now has 143 caps, Ramos 98. The Madrid centre-back surprised many by stepping up to take a free-kick, and surprised even more by striking it beautifully into the top corner. Markel Susaeta then came on to make his debut for Spain and marked the occasion with a goal.
There was still time for Panamá to have their moment, with Gómez scoring a 'panenka' penalty, but it was still a happy ending to another fantastic year for Spain.
IMAGEN: El campeón nunca duerme