The false 9 didn’t quite work for Vicente Del Bosque, but the faith placed in a man who wears the number 9 shirt has been vindicated.
With his two goals against the Republic of Ireland, Fernando Torres reminded everyone that he still possesses the ability to humiliate a defence, and that the loyalty shown by Del Bosque was not in vein. Two goals, one defining feature: Torres showed the desire and confidence he hasn’t demonstrated in a while. For his opener, he showed the tenacity to pounce upon a loose ball in the penalty area and smash home, before offering a trademark run in behind the defence and finishing in a composed manner for his brace.
When Torres wheeled away from both goals, he nodded his head as if to say “Doubt me now”. Of course, question marks will still remain due to his misses against Italy, which could have won the game, and due to the level of Thursday’s opponents. All the signs are there though, that the striker, like his coach, has proved the critics wrong once again.
His second goal against the Irish was Torres’ 30th for Spain in 95 appearances, putting him third behind Raúl and David Villa in the all-time goalscorer list. He finds form in the big competitions, and is capable of scoring important goals – the final of Euro 2008 for instance saw Torres race away from the German defence to slip the ball home. He was playing under Luis Aragónes then, and the former Spain coach spoke out recently stating that Torres would be his number 9 every time.
It’s Del Bosque’s support of Torres throughout this dry spell that was always going to be key in Poland and Ukraine. Aside from his omission from the friendly with Venezuela, Torres has been ever present with Spain and there are reasons behind this. In the Chelsea man, Del Bosque has a player who can pull defences apart with his movement, be it for his own gain or that of teammates. Although he’s not as quick as he was in 2008, the turn of pace and ability to roll off the shoulder of the last defender is still there, giving Torres an advantage when opponents switch off for a moment. Del Bosque must have hoped that Torres would be presented with an opportunity like he was against Ireland early on – it was a moment to ignite the confidence of the player once again.
After all, this is a short tournament, a sprint rather than a marathon. It was imperative that Torres found a break early, and though it could’ve arrived earlier in the shape of those missed opportunities against Italy, Torres showed he was able to put that behind him and move on. The movement for the opener wasn’t that of a forlorn striker, but one relishing every chance that comes his way.
Spain need a figure to pin their hopes on in attack. David Villa’s absence is being felt more and more with every game. When the Barcelona man was in the team, fans felt he could cut in devilishly from that left hand side and fire home at any moment. Torres needs to mould himself into a similar sort of figure. He once was such a talisman, and there is every reason to believe he can become one again.
Every player in Spain’s squad is behind him; this is clear to those who hear them speak or see them celebrate with Torres after he’s scored. Del Bosque certainly believes in him too. “We saw the real Spain again against Ireland” Torres stated after the 4-0 demolition. We saw the real Torres too, and with more glimpses of the old, Torres can breathe new life into his career.
You can back Torres to be top scorer and Spain to win the tournament at 8.00.