After watching their noisy neighbours recover from a disappointing start by annihilating North Korea earlier in the day, Spain hoped for a similar performance against Honduras. An exceptional display of attacking team football followed, but with a crucial ingredient missing that may cost Spain in the latter stages. Goals.
1) Barcelona’s Latest Addition Shines, Despite Penalty Miss.
David Villa’s early strike will undoubtedly stake a claim for one of the goals of the tournament, but his performance against Honduras consisted of much more than his two successes (and occasional failure) in front of goal. Switched to a left-sided role for the period Fernando Torres remained on the pitch and in the absence of Andres Iniesta, Villa’s distribution of the ball into the penalty area for Torres provided much of Spain’s early attacking play, before rattling the crossbar from thirty yards with a thundering drive of his own. His opening goal ran through a list of everything that is right with Villa’s game. Starting wide, the £34 million striker proceeded to run at pace at the Honduras backline, darting between two defenders, cutting inside another, before unleashing an unstoppable, scooped drive to the top corner. His positioning for his second goal was also sublime, despite the goal itself being spoiled by a fortunate deflection. His penalty miss to gain the second hat-trick of the tournament aside, Villa put in the kind of performance that warrants his position as favourite for the Golden Boot. However, aside from personal glory, Villa’s contribution will prove essential if Spain are going to win the tournament themselves.
2) Torres Lacking In Match-Fitness.
Fernando Torres made his return to the starting line-up after a pre-tournament injury lay-off. Most would say he was unrecognisable during the first half, and not only due to his absent blonde locks. If the Spaniard lacked pace during his substitute appearance against the Swiss, his problem tonight laid with his finishing ability. A simple header on thirty-two minutes was headed too powerfully into the ground and over the bar, whilst just a minute later Torres bothered Row Z with a strike from a position where, under normal service, he would bothered the goalkeeper. Unaware he had been called offside whilst free on goal minutes later, another chance was buried into the arms of Valladares, the Honduran custodian. Torres’ performance tonight will be unfairly compared to the rip-roaring attacking of David Villa, but in a team struggling to match their goal tally with their supreme build-up play, an unfit Torres could be a worry to Vincente del Bosque. However, the Liverpool number nine has shown great panache in the past in terms of recovery from injury, and with each game that passes Torres will, in all likelihood, become fitter and stronger. Spain’s rivals for the crown will hope this doesn’t reach a dazzling crescendo on July 11th.
3) Honduras Turn The Game In Spain’s Favour…By Attacking.
Honduras reacted to the ‘anti-football’ seen by many other weaker teams in the tournament from 45 minutes onwards. Before the break, Honduras provided Spain with one or two scares, yet only from dead-ball situations. However after the interval, in a similar vein to North Korea earlier in the day, the Hondurans decided to break down the flanks to take the game to their Spanish counterparts, but in doing this brought about their own downfall. The rampaging Sergio Ramos took this as an opportunity to overlap Jesus Navas more than in the first half, and from this movement the ball appeared at the feet of Villa to end the game as a contest.
4) Where From Here?
Honduras, it must be said, are as good as eliminated. They require a win against Switzerland, whilst Chile must beat Spain, and even then the Hondurans require a swing in goal difference. Chile, on six points, could be one of the few teams to leave the tournament after two wins if they are heavily beaten by the Spanish. Spain and Switzerland therefore find themselves in a battle for goals, something which could be harmed by the occasional ineptitude of Spain in front of goal this evening. The Spanish find themselves one goal ahead of the Swiss after this round of games, but with Switzerland playing an ever-weaker Honduras, Torres and co may require their shooting boots to fire them into the second round. David Villa will undoubtedly hope his country are not eliminated (or thrown into a clash against Brazil) by a single goal on Friday evening.