Spain Camp Focus - Killer Villa is a thriller, but troubled Torres toils
A hat-trick is a special thing for any forward, from the Sunday League to the Champions League, but to score one in a World Cup - the absolute pinnacle of football - must be something truly memorable, and so it is hard to gauge just what mood David Villa would have been in when he woke up this morning. Elated, on the one hand, for scoring the two goals - one of them sublimely - that got Spain’s World Cup campaign back on track after the shakiest of starts, but disappointed on the other, for he missed the chance to complete a treble by side-footing a penalty wide of goal.
But back to that first goal, how good was that? In a tournament so far short on truly great strikes - blame the pesky ball for that - Villa produced probably the best of the competition so far against Honduras last night. Cutting in from the left flank - where he was stationed to accommodate the returning Fernando Torres, the new Barcelona forward dashed between two Honduran defenders, before evading a third and dispatching an effort into the far corner past a well-beaten Noel Valladares. It was genius, and a moment that summed up the quality of Villa, a forward who now has and astonishing record of 40 goals in 60 internationals. Barca’s £34.2m outlay looks an absolute steal with each passing game, and after being criticised by many in Spain for his performance in the defeat to Switzerland, Villa responded in the perfect manner - well, the almost perfect manner, there was still that penalty, but his frustrations were nothing compared to those of his fellow superstar forward.
There have been suggestions that Torres is suffering from an almost Samson-like loss of power after his rather drastic change of hairstyle. As well as the hair, he wore the look of a frustrated man last night. In the first half alone, he snatched at a left footed chance when well placed, headed a Sergio Ramos cross over the bar and fired well over the top after escaping the attentions of two defenders - this may have been Ellis Park, where South Africa won the 1995 Rugby World Cup, but he did not get any points for that.
Seasoned Torres watchers are not worried, however. During his last two injury-hit seasons with Liverpool, he would often need a game or two to get back into the full swing of things, and the forward certainly looked a lot sharper during his 70 minute appearance in Johannesburg than he did in his half hour cameo against Switzerland in Durban. Yet still there was the frustration. One particular failure to pass from Cesc Fabregas - when the Arsenal captain had rounded goalkeeper Valladares - drew daggers from Torres that would have been sharp enough to cut the tension that is currently running through both the French and English camps. Torres wants to score, he needs to score, and the longer he goes without a goal the more frustrated he gets. Once he gets his first, then the World Cup had better watch out.
Maybe it will come in the next match against Chile, but with Villa on this form then Spain can afford to wait for their number nine to hit his straps. That clash with the Chileans looks set to be a classic, with Marcelo Bielsa’s side - as with all the South American teams in this tournament - extremely comfortable with the ball - they are an excellent attacking side. A frequent inability to pick the right pass when attacking can often let them down though, and as they will get fewer chances against the Spanish that they did against both Honduras and Switzerland, then that must be a concern. It is probably not on the minds of Villa, Torres, Vicente Del Bosque and Spain at the moment though, as they’ll just be focussing on winning the match, which they now need to do if they want to reach the last 16. Victory over Chile and a Switzerland win over Honduras on Friday night would see three teams finish level on six points at the top of Group H, and so goal difference may well come into play, meaning that Spain could well end up regretting Torres and Villa’s missed chances last night. That remains to be seen, but for now Spain can glory in a victory and the fine form of one of their forwards. Now it is time for the other one to catch up, regardless of his hairstyle.