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ALFREDO MATILLA | 14/06/2012
Spain and Torres are back on track. The 'Roja' brushed Ireland aside with their brand of football, achieving their main objective in the process: group leaders thanks to two strikes by the 'number 9' and a couple of gems from Silva and Cesc. They also banished any doubts that crept in against Italy, as did 'The Kid' as he silenced any doubters, with a resounding victory in sharp contrast to the first match against a very different kind of opposition. It is also possible that the Chelsea forward, re-crowned a national hero, wasn't in such poor form coming into the tournament, maybe he's just extending his pre-season again... June seems to be his month. The spark, the hunger and the brace, this was the Torres we know and love.
Spain came out with all guns blazing as they were keen to show the world that their crown will not be handed over easily - there are more records to be beaten. They bullied their opponents right from the start with much slicker football, pushing the ball out to the wings in the knowledge there was a target man in the centre. Spain looked to start and finish their moves, not just dominate for the sake of it. Despite all the interchanges between the usual suspects, Xavi, Iniesta and Silva, it was actually Casillas that was tested first. But Spain were convinced of their metamorphosis as they found the right route early on. Iniesta tried to link up with Silva just outside the area and as Dunne intercepted the pass he fell to the ground and Torres pounced on the loose ball, veering wide and smashing it past Given.
A first half of missed chances
During the period that followed Spain couldn't quite find their mojo as they struggled in the final third. Neverthless, Ireland's lack of quality almost immediately gave them the ball back, and it looked like just a matter of time. Spain had twelve chances in the first half to start to turn their attentions towards Croatia; Silva hit one straight at the keeper, Torres was a little too hesitant, Iniesta tested Given from the left and Alonso looked for opportunities outside the box. Xavi also tried his hand. The second looked like it wouldn't come, but Spain were still carving Ireland open at will.
Spain could have come out in the second half with the same fear that seemed to grip Italy and Germany, but this was not the case as there only looked like one outcome. Ireland failed to react, and looked like they didn't know how to, and, as Spain pressed and pressed they were finally rewarded. The goal came after Iniesta's shot pinballed around the Ireland area until it fell to the feet of the Manchester City player. Silva picked his spot and slid the ball through Dunne's legs into the bottom corner. The goal was key, and the touch and vision was one for the scrapbook.
Open doors for Torres and Cesc
With the game in the bag, Del Bosque's side showed no fear as they looked to boost their goal average. As Cesc warmed up on the touchline, Torres took his second chance. He was put through by Silva, and, in a similar position to his goal in the 2008 final, poked the ball past Given. Soon after, as he looked for his hat-trick, he was pulled off by Del Bosque.
Cesc was in charge of filling Torres' boots for the final stages and sent out a clear message to the rest. With or without a number 9, Spain are the team to beat. Fabregas pulled his weight in the box as the ball arrived to him from a Silva corner his powerful cross-shot went in off the post. It probably won't be his last as it looks like the champions have finally arrived.
IMAGEN: El campeón ya está aquí