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Spain debates the Torres dilemma

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Phil Minshull | 15:05 UK time, Sunday, 27 June 2010

Spaniards, and particularly the Spanish media, are very successful at turning the most marginal victory into a huge triumph.

However, after Spain's meandering passage into the knockout stages, most people have resisted blowing the events of the last week out of proportion and a sense of relief and a period of stocktaking has descended over the country in the aftermath of their 2-1 victory over Chile.

The win secured Spain's place the last 16 and meant they also avoided Brazil by finishing as top of their group but no one in Spain, at least not anyone sober or reasonably sensible, is talking too loudly any more about winning the World Cup.

torres595.jpg

Fernando Torres failed to score in Spain's qualifying campaign and is struggling for form Photograph: Reuters

The old mantra of 'one game at a time' which, to be fair, has been repeated regularly by Spain's coach Vicente Del Bosque since the draw was made last December, has become the phrase of the day both in South Africa and at home.

Having started at the favourites, or joint favourites with Brazil, and having left for South Africa at the start of the month with a tide of optimism behind them last month, people are now suffering a bit of a reality check.

Spaniards are now saying to themselves, in the media, in the bars or just in their own living rooms, "There are some other good teams in this tournament and maybe we are not quite as good as we thought we were."

Nevertheless, they now face neighbouring Portugal on Tuesday - with many pundits here are expecting bookings a plenty as the Spanish defenders, none of whom play for Real Madrid, subtly settle a few old scores with Cristiano Ronaldo.

If they get past Portugal, and you would have to say that Spain are the favourites after the defensive displays by Carlos Queiroz's side against Brazil and Ivory Coast, then they will play either Paraguay or Japan in the quarter-finals. In theory, whoever they face, that should be a very winnable contest for Spain.

However, the big question that emerged after the restrained euphoria of Friday night had died away, is how do Spain break down Portugal's resilient defence which has yet to concede a goal.

Eduardo has done an excellent, if understated, job in goal for former Manchester United assistant and Real Madrid coach Queiroz and his job has been made much easier by the form of Bruno Alves and Ricardo Carvalho, possibly the best central defensive pairing seen so far.

How will the one classic dilemma of an unstoppable object, in the shape of Spain's magnificent strikers, meeting an immovable object be resolved?

There is however a huge debate about whether Fernando Torres should be in the starting line up against Portugal. In similar fashion to England's Wayne Rooney, the feared forward arrived in South Africa far from fully match fit, and it has shown.

"He was quite simply bad," reflected one commentator in the Spanish sports daily As on Saturday.

Various Spanish media marked him as the worst Spanish player on the pitch, his loss of touch in marked contrast to David Villa against Chile and Honduras.

Nevertheless, Del Bosque looks as though he will keep faith with him, probably hoping that he will act as a talisman or that those skills in front of the goal that have been woefully absent will suddenly reappear.

"Even though he's not scored, he's a very important player for us because he makes the opposition defences sweat," said Del Bosque on Saturday, suggesting that it is a moot point about whether he should be dropped.

Rumours abound that the various players have been privately muttering that Del Bosque should leave out Torres and bring in Barcelona's Pedro or Athletic Bilbao's Fernando Llorente.

However, the image that Del Bosque has been giving in Spain is that, like the Danish coach Morten Olsen who has a nice little sideline in advertising hearing appliances - if you've ever gone through Copenhagen airport as I did last week, you'll know what I mean - he is turning a deaf ear to the mildly mutinous words.

"He (Torres) is improving and although he suffered a few twinges in this game he's not feeling any after-effects with his knee injury," Del Bosque told Spanish journalists after beating Chile.

Not surprisingly, his rather half-hearted defence of Torres' poor form was seized upon by the media and public alike highlighting the possibility that Torres will be on the bench on Tuesday.

Probably not helping either has been the fact that the former coach Luis Aragones, who lead Spain to triumph at the European Championships two years ago, has chosen this moment to start sniping from the sidelines, perhaps trying to make sure that his place in Spanish football fans' affections is not immediately trumped by Del Bosque.

"Spain won the match (against Chile) with a great deal of difficultly, they looked nervous in the first half. They need to wake up, move faster and demonstrate movement (off the ball)," commented Aragones.

Del Bosque has never shown himself to be swayed by public opinion but, from a personal perspective, for once the critics might be right and perhaps he should leave out Torres.

Comments on the piece in the space provided. Please keep sending other questions on European football that are not World Cup-related to europeanfootball@hotmail.co.uk.

Once the World Cup is over, I'll get back to covering issues and answering questions related especially to club football. I don't need your full address but please put the town/city and country where you come from. Thanks.

Here's a World Cup-related question that is possibly better dealt with from Europe than South Africa:

Q) I just wanted to ask you what you thought about the possible selection of Cesare Prandelli as the next coach for the Italian national side?
Jonathan Rossotto, Shanghai

A) This is very topical and it was confirmed on Friday that Prandelli will take over the reins of Italy from July 1. It was no surprise, as Prandelli had already been pencilled in to take over from Marcello Lippi but few were expecting the announcement to be made so suddenly while the team had barely time to get packed and on the plane home. Clearly, the Italian federation felt that they had to move quickly after the debacle in South Africa.

"We have the necessity to re-start obviously there is sadness and bitterness, but we must re-start," said the Italian federation president Giancarlo Abete.

The appointment of the popular former Fiorentina coach has already got the thumbs up from the players and the press.

"He is the only one capable of taking over from [Marcello] Lippi and leading Italy towards a rebirth," said Fabio Quagliarella on Saturday. The media in Italy believe that he will usher several more players towards international retirement alongside their 2006 World Cup winning captain Fabio Cannovaro as well as build bridges with players who Lippi excluded, such as Antonio Cassano.

However, personally, I'm a little bit more sceptical about how successful he will be. His club coaching career has been a good one in terms of over-achieving with modest clubs and he's twice been named the winner of the Panchina d'Oro (Golden Bench) award as the best Italian club coach in recent years but it's a much more different proposition dealing with all the egos and political problems that come with being the Italian national coach.

Comments

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  • 1. At 4:12pm on 27 Jun 2010, Denis Ebouekamp wrote:

    "Spaniards, and particularly the Spanish media, are very successful at turning the most marginal victory into a huge triumph."

    The irony!

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  • 2. At 5:02pm on 27 Jun 2010, ArsenalWenger wrote:

    Torres should start ahead of pedro or Llorente any day- it may be a slight risk but not fully fit, torres can still play better than them two

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  • 3. At 5:04pm on 27 Jun 2010, ArsenalWenger wrote:

    Torres can change a game on his day, and even when carrying a slight injury-that game could his next

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  • 4. At 5:06pm on 27 Jun 2010, Fed_Borg wrote:

    This Spanish team is like Barcelona, they only know one way to play, pass, pass, pass & more passing. True they have some of the best, Xavi, Iniesta, but the WC will not be won like that. As for Torres, he has been shown up, against top class, highly motivated defenders, he has nothing to offer.

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  • 5. At 5:26pm on 27 Jun 2010, rovers4ever wrote:

    "with many pundits here are expecting bookings a plenty as the Spanish defenders, none of whom play for Real Madrid, subtly settle a few old scores with Cristiano Ronaldo."

    2 words - Sergio Ramos

    I thought you watched Spanish football Phil?

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  • 6. At 5:29pm on 27 Jun 2010, Bendtner's finishing touch wrote:

    "... as the Spanish defenders, none of whom play for Real Madrid, subtly settle a few old scores with Cristiano Ronaldo."

    heard of sergio ramos?

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  • 7. At 5:30pm on 27 Jun 2010, cinnamon wrote:

    I think the Spanish reaction shows class - it's natural everyone starts with optimism - they'd be foolish to not have done as they have a great team and had a recent undefeated record that equalled brazil. But they are smart enough to know when to reign in that optimism. This world cup as an event has been a little disappointing in some ways but the real success for me is the fact that teams like Spain CAN and do recognise the quality left in. Italy, France and England all out but the teams left were not flukily through - teams like Chile, Ghana, Paraguay and Japan have shown a real quality and fluidity to their play which should mean that perhaps a new chapter in world football I'd quietly being written. I for one was hugely impressed and entertained by the Japan v Denmark game and wished England would play with such tenacity, skill and drive. I'm sure the French and the Italians would say the same and as for the Spanish, it appears they acknowledge this emergence of strength in other quarts and deflecting pressure off themselves.

    For me, now that England are out, I'm going to be able to watch as a neutral and wish all the remaining teams the best. In the past, we admire qualities in other teams as neutrals - the Brazillians for flair, the Argentinians for tactical shrewdness, the Italians for their defensive artistry and the Germans for their.. well, reliability on the big stage (much to our pain); the Dutch for their total football and so on..

    maybe now, teams of 'lesser' pedigree can now show their defining qualities. Asian teams like Korea and Japan have shown they can mix skill and workrate and with a very winning honesty and pureness.

    Perhaps the big teams can learn from this and go back to basics.

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  • 8. At 5:41pm on 27 Jun 2010, Dogolian wrote:

    I simply dont think he's in the right state of mind.. Peharps a dislocation of some sort but i dont know how Pedro is on the Bench while Torres is struggling.. take em out and put pedro through.... He hasn't play that well during the last season anyway.. he's a good player but not in form at moment.

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  • 9. At 5:42pm on 27 Jun 2010, Im bored of my username wrote:

    Id play Torres, just to free up space for the superior David Villa.

    "Spaniards, and particularly the Spanish media, are very successful at turning the most marginal victory into a huge triumph."

    Irony indeed.

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  • 10. At 5:43pm on 27 Jun 2010, cinnamon wrote:

    "As for Torres, he has been shown up, against top class, highly motivated defenders, he has nothing to offer"

    Tell that to the Chelsea, Man Utd, Arsenal, Real Madrid, Inter and countless other top defences. Oh and remember who scored that Euro championships final goal?

    Torres is quality - his shortcomings this tournament are purely down to fitness and his record for Liverpool shows this pattern.

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  • 11. At 5:56pm on 27 Jun 2010, el che wrote:

    Cinnamon I totally agree with you. The Frenchies should be the first on in line

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  • 12. At 5:58pm on 27 Jun 2010, Robbo wrote:

    "... as the Spanish defenders, none of whom play for Real Madrid, subtly settle a few old scores with Cristiano Ronaldo."

    Sergio Ramos.......that regular right back for Real Madrid!!!

    People read too much in Spain 'slipping up'. They came up against a very decent Chile side and actually controlled large parts of the second half. They are by far the best footballing side in the competition (not to say they will win it I know)and I dont think Spain will worry too much about Portugals attack. C.Ronaldo up top on his own against Brazil anyone!!

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  • 13. At 6:00pm on 27 Jun 2010, Diego_Forlans_dad wrote:

    Torres excellent player in the EPL, and of course very high quality overall but was never a big scorer in Spain or for the national team.

    If you're the Spain coach you do what gets the best out of the superior David Villa, if that's playing Torres then so be it but so far it doesn't seem to be working as Villa does all his best work by himself.

    I'd play Villa up top on his own with Iniesta close by to find his runs.

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  • 14. At 6:08pm on 27 Jun 2010, Phil Minshull wrote:

    To those people who mentioned Sergio Ramos, you are right. I was missing a word between 'Spanish' and 'defenders' and that word should have been 'central'.

    Note to self, engage brain fully before putting fingers on keyboard!

    Regarding Torres, as I've said in the past, I think he's a fantastic player and if he was fully fit I don't think there would be this debate. However, he isn't.

    Spain and Del Bosque got away with having him in the starting line up against Honduras and Chile, possibly hoping that he will play himself fit, but I don't think that gambit is paying off and I'm not sure how long their luck will last.

    Several people have commented to the effect that 'Torres can change a game on his day'. Yes he can, but with his current match fitness level, I think he might be better coming off the bench for the last 20-25 minutes.

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  • 15. At 6:08pm on 27 Jun 2010, lorus59 wrote:

    I think Torres has had enough game time by now to be up to match speed. I would play him and if he is not doing the business, take him off at half time.

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  • 16. At 6:12pm on 27 Jun 2010, Uvatha wrote:

    Torres is not the problem, the real problem is that Del Bosque wants/has to put the maximum number of Real Madrid players, and Xabi Alonso is not as good as the rest, and disallows the hight performance of Barça midfielders.
    Don't worry about Torres, sooner or late he will score, he's a great player and he is not a problem at all.

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  • 17. At 6:19pm on 27 Jun 2010, Sacho wrote:

    "Spaniards, and particularly the Spanish media, are very successful at turning the most marginal victory into a huge triumph."

    Ha ha ha. As a number of posters before me have said- irony indeed! Though a 1-0 defeat of Slovenia was a worthy victory to inspire a run to lifting the World Cup.

    44 years of pain and counting.

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  • 18. At 6:20pm on 27 Jun 2010, Will_G wrote:

    Agree with your comments re: Torres, 14, however Spain should perservere with him as he will improve and without him their chances of going all the way are drastically reduced !
    Keep confidence with your best strikers until it is absolutely obvious that they cannot perform.

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  • 19. At 7:00pm on 27 Jun 2010, Its a fair Kop wrote:

    Why try to fix something that isn't broken?

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  • 20. At 7:02pm on 27 Jun 2010, ffpros wrote:

    He shouldn't start. If he hasn't been performing, or if there are doubts over his fitness then he should be replaced by Pedro, becuase he will bring more to the team. There is no reason to believe in my opinion that Torres will perform better in the next game. He simply doesn't perform for Spain like he has done for Liverpool. He only scored 2 goals in Euro 2008

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  • 21. At 7:04pm on 27 Jun 2010, Djamilja wrote:

    I agree that Torres is not completely match-fit, which is not surprising since he plays his first competitive games after injury. However, I disagree that he has played poorly so far. People who are familiar with Torres' game (which is a lot different from most Spanish forwards imo) know that he is a striker who may remain unseen for most part of the game or miss plenty of chances by an inch but he has shown time and time again that sooner or later he will get his foot (or head) on the ball and score when it counts most. So far, he has created chances, put himself in the right position time and time again and opened up defenses (Villa goal against Chile anyone?). The only thing people are complaining about is that his name hasn't been on the score sheet but that is only a matter of time. Yes, Villa scores most goals and yes, he's brilliant at it but he plays very differently from Torres, which btw is a good thing otherwise you needn't bother with playing both of them.
    What I'm trying to say is that I think Torres plays really well. He needs to get some match practice under his belt but his pace, his skills and his instincts are all there. So no worries. Keep the lad in the lineup!

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  • 22. At 7:22pm on 27 Jun 2010, Amardeep wrote:

    Alonsos loss in midfield will be crucial and i think Portugal may capitalise on it they defend really well ask Brazil and have the firepower to hurt Spain,i dont think Xavi and Fabregas can play in the same side look at the Honduras game where Fabregas was brilliant when he came on for Xavi but in the second half against Chile he was non-existant,maybe they should play Llorente or Navas/Pedro

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  • 23. At 7:35pm on 27 Jun 2010, Andrers12 wrote:

    I think that Torres is a spent force at this WC. He's shown none of the speed, touch and finishing that we're grown accustomed to in the EPL. I think Spain got very lucky v. Chile and only won through a rush of blood from Chile's keeper (brilliantly finished by Villa, granted but typically 8/9 out of 10 of those shots will miss the target). Spain were not incisive and we made to look mediocre by the running and desire of 10 Chileans.
    As a Portuguese, I can't wait for the game and would much rather play Spain slow/considered game plan than Chile's constant attacking ethos, which would possibly overrun our midfield. I just hope Queiroz doesn't mess around and put Liedson or Hugo Almeida upfront as Ronaldo had no impact against Brazil running straight - he's at his best coming in from either flank (i think Portugal's right as Capdevilla will be suspect).
    Fingers crossed for a great game and a Portugal win!

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  • 24. At 7:39pm on 27 Jun 2010, Fed_Borg wrote:

    @ cinnamon, sorry this is not the premier league nor is it a club game. As I am sure you know, the WC is a totally different competition, even Messi is struggling.

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  • 25. At 9:33pm on 27 Jun 2010, lamejorliga wrote:

    Phil, You've corrected your mistake about Sergio Ramos but what about Raul Albiol, Real Madrid central defender?

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  • 26. At 9:42pm on 27 Jun 2010, Djamilja wrote:

    Andrers12: "I think that Torres is a spent force at this WC. He's shown none of the speed, touch and finishing that we're grown accustomed to in the EPL."

    What game did you watch? Against Chile I saw Torres unsettling the Chilean defense three or four times in the first twenty minutes.
    But I can see why the Portuguese would prefer to play Spain over Chile as the South-Americans committed one awful foul after the other and Spain have yet to pick up a booking.

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  • 27. At 9:43pm on 27 Jun 2010, JamesHanson wrote:

    "... as the Spanish defenders, none of whom play for Real Madrid, subtly settle a few old scores with Cristiano Ronaldo."

    He hasn't been playing thus far and may have been injured today in training but Raul Albiol is a Real Madrid centre back...

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  • 28. At 9:49pm on 27 Jun 2010, footycrazyy wrote:

    sergio ramos doesnt play for real madrid does he??????

    amateurish blog by your standards

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  • 29. At 10:02pm on 27 Jun 2010, ClockworkMan wrote:

    This is a joke. Torres has been a real handful. No goals...yet but he'll find the net. Just like Messi. Clever management so far to get a potentially world cup winning goal scorer into goal scoring shape.

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  • 30. At 10:12pm on 27 Jun 2010, The fake Boris Becker wrote:

    @20

    Torres may have only scored 2 in euro 2008. But I seem to remember he scored the winner against Germany in the final, which was a great finish.

    He also had a fair few assists for David Villa. Whom didn't return the favour very often.

    I think England would have him in their team any day of the week and any form.

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  • 31. At 10:40pm on 27 Jun 2010, Portugeezer wrote:

    23. At 7:35pm on 27 Jun 2010, Andrers12 wrote:
    As a Portuguese, I can't wait for the game and would much rather play Spain slow/considered game plan than Chile's constant attacking ethos, which would possibly overrun our midfield. I just hope Queiroz doesn't mess around and put Liedson or Hugo Almeida upfront as Ronaldo had no impact against Brazil running straight - he's at his best coming in from either flank (i think Portugal's right as Capdevilla will be suspect).
    Fingers crossed for a great game and a Portugal win!

    ^^^^^^^
    totally agree!!

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  • 32. At 10:45pm on 27 Jun 2010, leoleoleomessi wrote:

    the problem is, the next match could be the match that torres picks up his form and hits in a couple of goals, and if he is put on the bench the spanish could miss out. i would start him, and if he isn't performing take him off at half time. fabregas looked good when he came on against chile, and if fabregas is playing well you can't consistantly keep him on the bench ahead of an off-form torres.

    I agree that puyol won't hold back if he sees the opportunity to make a few crunching tackles on ronaldo.

    i'm really looking forward to the match. both teams are excellent attacking, and i think spains defence can be excellent too. it should be a high tempo, end to end game. i reckon spain will edge it though

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  • 33. At 10:54pm on 27 Jun 2010, Maria Valencia wrote:

    I don't think he should be benched. He didn't start against Switzerland and did come in with 20 mins to go... that made a small difference, not because he is the attacking force of his Liverpool days (as he is obviously not... yet) but because his presence somehow gives Villa a lot of reinforcement in attack. Villa was on his own the whole match and never looked like scoring...
    Maybe, just maybe, defenders will be so busy marking Torres that they will forget about Villa, or the other way around, or any other Spanish player on the field... that's the real strength of the Spanish team, anyone can score!
    Spain doesn't depend on Torres, but Villa does improve his game when El Nino is on... one of those mysteries of life .

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  • 34. At 11:36pm on 27 Jun 2010, ReddRussian wrote:

    Torres is a very valuable player, he is special by his sharp way of feeling the situation, creating goal moments for Villa and Iniesta. But he needs someone to feed him with good passes. So far, I noticed the most of the passes from Navas were either too far, or too short, or meters away, which was pretty much frustrating to look at.
    But I agree with an opinion that it could be more useful to play Fab first, and then play Torres in the second half.

    I also want to urge anyone who spots that Mick Jagger is going to the stadium to cheer for Spain, to keep him from doing so :)

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  • 35. At 11:44pm on 27 Jun 2010, gy5 wrote:

    @ Fed_Borg, you've got to be be kidding me messi is struggling? he's laid on goals for other players, tormented every defence he's played against and done just about every single thing asked of him except score himself.

    as for torres, his presence and reputation are making defenders back off and sit deeper; and giving the likes of villa, xavi and iniesta to play inbetween midfield and defence. david villa is a great goal scorer but i think having torres there gives him more opportunity to find space and score as the 2 centre backs are preoccupied defending torres; because just like us they're waiting for him to explode into action. so far the only game torres hasn't started is agaonst switzerland and villa looked a bit isolated and seemed to struggle without the extra space and time. i say play him because he could score at any moment and he gives the most creative players time and space to operate.

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  • 36. At 11:44pm on 27 Jun 2010, cinnamon wrote:

    Remember against chile, first goal, chile keeper came out due to TORRES running pressure leading to villa goal. Penalty? debatable and questionable maybe, but TORRES won that (and no, he didn't dive). In Euro 2008, Torres laid off countless assists for Villa and when the livewire was injured in the final, TORRED stepped up to the plate - a big game player for big game tournaments and as other posts have mentioned earlier, he just needs one game to click before he fires. By then, defences will have underestimated him and his pace, strength and guile will show his continued value to Spain. He also defends from the front and takes out defenders. He compliments the spacial rhythmic Spanish tempo with sudden bursts of speed and raw power. This shouldn't even be a debate in my opinion

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  • 37. At 00:39am on 28 Jun 2010, fogz wrote:

    @ 30 i cant remember torres scoring more than one goal at the euros,

    all this debate about torres is just a waste of space rally, cos del bosque will play him even if he had one leg amputated,.... beats d life off me why he doesnt start fabregas, i mean he did score 19 goals this season afterall plus he had a better assist ratio than xavi and alonso last season plus he is a tard faster than xavi and xabi, maybe del bosque is set out to please some big gunz afterall

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  • 38. At 01:25am on 28 Jun 2010, Gavelaa wrote:

    You know, Torres as his best could just be the very, very best.

    On top form the boy is an absolutely amazing striker. I think something might not be right with him, and I'm devastated for the lad. How many world cups does a player get to show to the world how good he is. Villa is having his time now because he's not injured or at least not coming in to the tournament off some bad injuries.

    Today I saw Klose and Podolski look like world beaters against England. These players at club level are journeymen at best. A fully fit Torres makes these two players look a few notches below.

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  • 39. At 01:32am on 28 Jun 2010, Tori_torres8 wrote:

    It always seems to look so...Looks to seem so...That torres can only play against top drawer defenders..Bring in brazil and we'll see what villa is and who torres is.
    Sadly i think there is little hesitation among the others and the catalans....So much so that xabi alonso has to kick it straight up to the box coz no catalan comes to pick.

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  • 40. At 01:41am on 28 Jun 2010, Gavelaa wrote:

    As for the game, Spain are surely far superior to Portugal. I would be devastated as a lover of football to see Spain lose so early. They have such flair and competency at passing, it is staggering that no team is as comfortable. I'm not too hot with desire for playing Busquets and Xabi Alonso in the same side. I'm not sure you need both playing especially as if it looks to be affecting Xavi - he doesn't seem as comfortable as far up the pitch, he needs to get involved more in the middle and he can't. Torres through the middle has freed Villa on the left, as Torres occupies both centre backs. Villa is at the moment capitalising on his great form and fitness, while Torres could be the key for Spain as long as they continue winning while he plays.

    Remember, all 4 of Spain's goals this tournament have occurred with Torres being on the pitch, with him being directly or indirectly involved in the play. Look at Villa's (No. 2) v Honduras - Torres moves to the left and a defender hesitates to go to Villa because Torres has moved into free space. Villa then shoots and gets the luck with the deflection.

    If Alonso is injured, it may not matter too much as although he has been excellent so far, Fabregas can come in and be a brilliant player. Xavi and Busquets can run the midfield, Fabregas can be more influential further forward, with Torres through the middle and Villa left, Iniesta right. Navas and Silva could be useful options, but right now aren't good enough to start as their influence is not enough.

    Casillas, Ramos, Puyol, Pique, Capdevilla, Busquets, Xavi, Fabregas, Iniesta, Torres, Villa.

    This team could be really dangerous as it looks to have great balance. Portugal has good defensive cover but once Ronaldo is isolated their attack becomes futile. If Spain dominate the goals will come to them a lot easier than it will to Portugal, and for me that makes them favourites.

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  • 41. At 01:46am on 28 Jun 2010, Ian Fraser wrote:

    Spain without Torres is like Hamlet without the prince. They join the list of the overrated: France, Italy, England. On current form they would not beat either Brazil, Argentina, Germany or Holland. They might even struggle with Paraguay.

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  • 42. At 04:35am on 28 Jun 2010, slingitronny wrote:

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  • 43. At 04:52am on 28 Jun 2010, slingitronny wrote:

    i feel you people are dismissing portugal far too easily,in one breath some of you say portugal have a great defense,in another spain will win easily.the fact that portugal did,nt give brazil a sniff and infact created the clearer chances to win,should be a clear warning to the spanish team.my advise to you is to put as much money as you can afford on portugal eliminating spain.my guess is,portugal will stiffle spains attacks and they will get more and more frustrated,portugal will gradually break their will as time goes on and get lots of joy on the counter attack.portugal have some world class players throughout the side,coentrao is the best left back and a huge threat in attack too,meirelles is as tough as they come in midfield and can turn defense into attack in an instant,in carvalho and alves they have the best centre backs,ronaldo is improving with every game and soon those missiles of his will miss the cross bar and go under it.
    they seem to be growing in confidence as the competition moves along,they quite simply refused to let brazil get anywhere in their group game,i really believe they will meet again in the final.

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  • 44. At 05:53am on 28 Jun 2010, Dalglish-Dalglish-Dalglish wrote:

    You may guess from my username that I'm a fan of Torres. I admit that he's looked rusty, but even when rusty he really puts a panic in the opposition defence because of the combination of pace and power--no other player on the Spain team has this. As great as David Villa is (and he is fantastic), I think that most defenders would rather see him and not Torres running at them. When Torres is on form he is unplayable (ask Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic among others). He will get his fitness and form back by the semifinals--the question is whether Spain can survive that long. I would definitely play him, but consider a switch at 60 minutes again if he is ineffective.

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  • 45. At 07:08am on 28 Jun 2010, Kíllìnghölmê_Clᥠ(aka Charlie Cheesecake) wrote:

    On a purely selfish note - I would be delighted to have a fit Torres return to Liverpool for the new season. I have no doubt that Spain would cope very well without him. Yes. Drop him I say!!! :D

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  • 46. At 08:21am on 28 Jun 2010, johnhenry wrote:

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the House Rules.

  • 47. At 08:26am on 28 Jun 2010, johnhenry wrote:

    The fact that european sides are struggling and that spain aren't as good as first thought surely suggests that euro 2008 wasn't the great test of the spanish team as the sides were poor. Spain and Germany are the best european sides and that has been reflected at this world cup.

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  • 48. At 08:48am on 28 Jun 2010, Booftothemax wrote:

    The usual premiership bias comes out when discussing a premiership player. The facts are Torres, good player as he is, is simply not good enough to play in this Spanish side. Even when fully fit, his touch isn't good enough to play the one touch, free flowing football Spain like to play. He looks good in an average premiership against average defenders because he can get away with a poor touch and still finish against average defending. The reality is he is a good player but not great and is not in David Villa's class.
    I also think Portugal will win the game. They are solid and have the one player capable of a moment of genius in Ronaldo. Spain are full of top class players but lack that one genius player that only Portugal and Argentina have.

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  • 49. At 09:45am on 28 Jun 2010, neil_h wrote:

    @Fed Borg

    Stick to tennis because you clearly dont know much about football. Messi is struggling! Ha.

    Yes Torres is unfit and not 100% sharp, and yes he hasn't scored but Villa clearly found little spce against Switzerland. Having Torres in the side as mentioned occupies one if not both center halfs allowing Villa to expose any space behind the full back or between the full back and center half. Having Torres also de-clogs the midfield, allowing them to play the same passing game but with a bit more zip as the midfield isn't so compact. Granted Honduras are not the best team but Spain moved the ball far quicker that day than against Switzerland.

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  • 50. At 10:12am on 28 Jun 2010, David Windsor wrote:

    Does anyone else see any similarities between Torres' performance here and that of the supposed stars of the England team? Just below par and seemingly unable to shake themselves into form. Is it a Premier League thing I wonder?

    Or has Capello been moonlighting :-)

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  • 51. At 10:21am on 28 Jun 2010, roger wrote:

    Even if there are no "central defenders" playing in real madrid in the spanish squad (albiol does not count for some reason, i know he is not playing but can still give some input). The two central defenders who do play for Spain have never conceded a goal to Ronaldo in all the times they have played so don't see why not having any "Real" defenders is a problem.

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  • 52. At 10:45am on 28 Jun 2010, englishteacherinmadrid wrote:

    Sorry to go over old ground but I almost choked on my churros when I read your first paragraph. Until the WC the Spanish media has been right to blow the national team´s collective trumpet on the back of victory after victory. They have been a little more subdued in the recent qualifiers.

    As for none of the central defenders being from Real Madrid and as Albiol is not being included (did he not just do in his shin in training?) you probably meant "neither" of the central defenders. Grammar geek here. Regardless I´m quite sure Ramos, Alonso or even Saint Iker would happily clobber Ronaldo for the good of España.

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  • 53. At 10:53am on 28 Jun 2010, I am not a number wrote:

    What do you think of Europe under performing in this tournament? Only 6 European teams in the round of 16 (an all time low), coincidentally all 6 of them are facing each other meaning we only have three European teams in the quarter-final (yet another all time low). Is the European dominance of the world cup (although not in terms of titles!) over, or is it too early to tell?

    Anyway I expect Spain to win their next match, while Portugal's defence is impressive, including the young left back Fabio Coentrao, it has one major weakness: the right back (Bosingwa's injury will be felt in the match) and Spain will exploit that.

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  • 54. At 11:12am on 28 Jun 2010, notdolly wrote:

    "Del Bosque has never shown himself to be swayed by public opinion but, from a personal perspective, for once the critics might be right and perhaps he should leave out Torres."

    Why? Have you watched Spain's games? The only thing he's lacked has been a finish, and we all know he can do that as well as most on his day. Yes, he's miscontrolled it a couple of times, but surely he's more likely to rediscover top form now he's had a few games to get back in the swing of things. He will create space for Villa by dragging defenders away and you can guarantee that Carvalho and Bruno Alves would much rather face Llorente than Torres!

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  • 55. At 11:12am on 28 Jun 2010, djgandy wrote:

    Sounds like a load of commentary from the same people who picked the England team. Designer players from 6 digit wage clubs who are ignorant to the rest of the football world.

    Torres is completely over-rated. People need to forget the Premier League and the illusion of greatness that surrounds it. In 2006 Villa was better than him, and in 2008 Villa was better than him and again in 2010 Villa is better than him, yet the same old pundits go on and on and on about their little Liverpool darling.

    Torres has shown class in his career, however currently he should not be playing. He's almost like Ronaldo in 2006 (no.9 the Brazilian), great history, really bad form.

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  • 56. At 11:19am on 28 Jun 2010, The apprentice wrote:

    The article is wrong... It says none of the defenders play for R. Madrid, when Sergio Ramos in fact plays for them, as well as some squad players Arbeloa and Raul Albiol

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  • 57. At 11:20am on 28 Jun 2010, The Duke wrote:

    Torres looked ok the other night. Looked quick, put in some decent running and it was his hard pressing that led to the error which Villa pounced on from range.

    If he's dropped then it'd surely be at the expense of the extra striker rather than replacing with Pedro, as was the case in other games iirc?!

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  • 58. At 12:06pm on 28 Jun 2010, goggyturk wrote:

    "2 words - Sergio Ramos" - maybe Phil was confusing him with a winger? I know I do sometimes!

    As for Spain, the one player they have really missed imho is Senna. They look lightweight in midfield without him.

    I think Spain will be weakened a lot if Alonso doesn't make it as he provides more cover in this area again - Busquets doesn't look like he could tackle a fish supper.

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  • 59. At 12:58pm on 28 Jun 2010, Pedro wrote:

    Spanish - not media - view: Mostly of Spaniards are dissapointed with the three matches.
    I have read comments of readers in a Spanish newspaper just after Chile's match and all Spanish agree that Del Bosque is making two mistakes. First, Torres is clumsy because he is clearly out of fit, so He must be on the bench. Second, He is using Xavi Hernandez out of his best location (just ahead the defence) because Del Bosque is playing with Xavi Alonso and Busquets, one of them must be out and place Xavi Hernandez

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  • 60. At 1:10pm on 28 Jun 2010, Gavelaa wrote:

    @post 55. I do get confuddled and slightly annoyed by views like this.

    To label Fernando Torres overrated because he performs in the Premier League is just amazing. Fernando Torres, by far and away, has the greatest goals to mintues ration in the Premier League of any striker. He has scored 56 goals in 79 appearances for Liverpool in the league, with a few of these appearances being as a sub, and many of these appearances not lasting the full 90 minutes. His goal record in one of the two best leagues is unqestionable, and he has scored a fair number of goals against Manchester United, Arsenal and Chelsea in his career - not to mention Real Madrid, Inter Milan, Arsenal, Chelsea, Marseille, Porto and Benfica in Europe too.

    This guy is an absolute genius in front of goal, and the quality of his goals are full of beauty too. He has won goal of the month at least twice. At the moment in the tournament yes Villa, the superb player that he is looks superior, but I don't really think there is an argument either way.

    Villa is the older more experienced player who has scored a lot of goals for Valencia and Spain. For Spain, more than Torres has. But Torres got into the Spanish side originally for his unbelievable talent. In fact, when he signed for Liverpool it was for his quality, not necessarily for the fact that he'll score 30 goals a season. As it happened, he transfered his quality, matures and was able to add a phenomenal amount of goals to his game.

    Villa it seems, has gone the other way. He's always had the goals, now he is adding the beauty to his game, the sheer quality to his goals and his fantastic all round play.

    What we're looking at here are two strikers who on their day are 2 of the best 5 strikers in the world. It is disrespectful to label either overrated as its just not true. Torres got into the top 3 players of the world in 2008, and has been in the last 2 FIFA/FifPro World Elevens. I think that speaks for itself.

    Torres isn't even in bad form. He has played about 3 games back from a knee injury, his second knee injury. Anyone who watches Liverpool knows that small patches like this are not rare for Torres. He doesn't score every week, but when he starts clicking again, which I happen to think will be very soon, then he starts scoring very regularly. Spain would be making a mistake not playing him. I could see the same problems ocurring against Portgual as happened against Switzerland. The balance wasn't right between midfield possession and attacking options. Even a half fit Torres gives you an attacking option. And in the 2 games he has started, even though he hasn't scored, he's been a lot, lot better than Wayne Rooney has been through this tournament, and there was no one clammering for Rooney to be dropped, because we all thought that it could have been any time he exploded into life, and his class is unquestionable. I think, and we may have seen that 5 in midfield for Spain doesn't suit them the best, and if they are going to play 2 strikers, then Fernando Llorente certainly won't be as useful as Torres, so they must stick with Torre I feel.

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  • 61. At 1:47pm on 28 Jun 2010, bongi wrote:

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the House Rules.

  • 62. At 2:16pm on 28 Jun 2010, bannedgunner wrote:

    Some amazing comments here. Spanish media, fans, and some players who are following Spains' much closer seem to think Torres is not all that, and he has not been good; but PL fans are adamant that he is been a huge factor.

    I recall during the confederation cup, on these boards Robinhu's performance was viewed with disdain and criticized, yet Brazilian media and fans rated Robinhu's performance second only to Fabiano.

    It is general fact that Robinhu plays well for Brazil, and Torres usually does not play as well for Spain. But no way you can tell PL fans that.

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  • 63. At 3:02pm on 28 Jun 2010, Rox wrote:

    Torres must play in the first half and the second half

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  • 64. At 3:08pm on 28 Jun 2010, roberpesca wrote:

    I think you're missing the point of Spain's "not up to the hype" performances. Del Bosque has tried to fix something that was not broken by playing with two center defensive minded midfielders in Busquets and Xabi Alonso. By doing so, he thinks the team is more protected, but the reality is that Spain learn two years ago that the best way we can defend is by having the possession of the ball. Also, the inclusion of these two means that Xavi's position is more advance than it should and has not the impact in the game as he should. Spain should play with just one defensive midfielder (Busquets or Alonso) + Xavi, Iniesta, Silva + Villa up front. The other place between Torres and Cesc. That's how we became champions and that's how we should play.

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  • 65. At 4:43pm on 28 Jun 2010, Rolando_USA wrote:

    Spaniards, and particularly the Spanish media, are very successful at turning the most marginal victory into a huge triumph.

    Well this is better than English pessimism abou their team. Having visited the UK many times I often wondered how fans are always pessimistic about teams they follow. Even after a win I would hear "They are rubbish mate". Hey a win is win is win. Yes the team underperformed but if they win give them an applause. I think the British give their team unrealistic expectations and when they cannot live up to them it is the usual "You see, rubish". If you don't expect to win, how can you build a winner. If the Spaniards can "take the most marginal victory into a huge triumph" you should learn from that and perhaps build the confidence of your team.

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  • 66. At 4:52pm on 28 Jun 2010, Pedro wrote:

    The point of Roberpesca is the point of most Spaniards. I'm included.

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  • 67. At 5:23pm on 28 Jun 2010, Pauly Mac wrote:

    '....unstoppable object, in the shape of Spain's magnificent strikers, meeting an immovable object be resolved?'

    immovable object versus unstoppable force Phil ;-)

    Can't believe the Torres sympathy here, he has more than enough time to prove his fitness in the tournament, and he just isn't sharp enough. El Nino is a wonderful player, but this tourney has just came too early for him after injury.

    Del Bosque WILL start him, but he would be better opting for the 4-2-3-1 that destroyed France pre-tournament and has been effective when Torres has not been on the field.

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  • 68. At 5:42pm on 28 Jun 2010, jackb wrote:

    knowing that idiot del bosque he will take him out of the team. i dont understand how he leaves out a player, fabregas, who is equal or better than iniesta and xavi, and better than alonso. even when alonso if not fit he still wont start him, he changed the game and almost scored twice in 2 minutes when he came on against hounduras.

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  • 69. At 5:45pm on 28 Jun 2010, NoNameBoy wrote:

    Spain is similar to England in many ways. I'm hoping that tomorrow some of those similarities will be obvious :)

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  • 70. At 5:47pm on 28 Jun 2010, giobob123 wrote:

    ".....many pundits here are expecting bookings a plenty as the Spanish defenders, none of whom play for Real Madrid, subtly settle a few old scores with Cristiano Ronaldo."

    Since when did Sergio Ramos, the full back likely to be up against Ronaldo, not play for Real Madrid?

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  • 71. At 6:11pm on 28 Jun 2010, Gavelaa wrote:

    @ post 70, this issue has been done to death and the author has tried to explain himself.

    Can we get away from this now?

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  • 72. At 6:14pm on 28 Jun 2010, stowyowl wrote:

    giobob123 - see comment 14

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  • 73. At 6:25pm on 28 Jun 2010, Fourth is the New First wrote:

    I'd like to see Llorente start just to give Spain a better aerial presence at set pieces and mitigate the situation if Portugal decide to 'park the bus'.

    These clashes of 'irresistible force vs. immovable object' can be quite intriguing but I really do hope that Portugal make an attempt to counter attack because against both the Ivory Coast and Brazil they were every shade of awful.

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  • 74. At 6:28pm on 28 Jun 2010, JoeDavisRoach wrote:

    14. At 6:08pm on 27 Jun 2010, Phil Minshull wrote:
    To those people who mentioned Sergio Ramos, you are right. I was missing a word between 'Spanish' and 'defenders' and that word should have been 'central'.
    ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Surely if that was the case then the sentence would have been "neither of whom play for Madrid" as opposed to "none of whom play for Madrid".

    It may seem like being pendantic but it seems you just either didnt know or forgot that Ramos was in the side or played for Real Madrid. This is a pretty poor oversight from someone who covers Spanish football in all honesty.

    The starting pairing at centre back for Spain is the two Barcelona players Pique and Puyol but outside of that you also have Albiol who is a Madrid player and a centre back.

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  • 75. At 6:59pm on 28 Jun 2010, OilSlick wrote:

    "...with many pundits here are expecting bookings a plenty as the Spanish defenders, none of whom play for Real Madrid, subtly settle a few old scores with Cristiano Ronaldo."

    "14. At 6:08pm on 27 Jun 2010, Phil Minshull wrote:

    To those people who mentioned Sergio Ramos, you are right. I was missing a word between 'Spanish' and 'defenders' and that word should have been 'central'. "

    OK, but the central defenders are Puyol and Pique, both of Barcelona. Ronaldo has never scored against Barcelona (as far as I can remember) and Pique was Ronaldo's former team mate.

    What old scores are you talking about?!

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  • 76. At 7:54pm on 28 Jun 2010, redforever wrote:

    A lot of people who only see Torres's goals on highlights, perhaps don't realise that he is far from the perfect striker for 90 minutes. He is explosive, and go from infuriatingly poor to world class in seconds. His first touch is either perfect or terrible, and he can either ghost through a defence or run into a blind alley, looking like a pub player. Right now he is not 100% and all the real quality stuff he is capable off has not been shown. Del Bosque will have to decide if he thinks that given a number of weeks of recovery time, he is finally ready to explode. If he has shown no sign of that then I would leave him out and use him if you have a problem.

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  • 77. At 8:41pm on 28 Jun 2010, slingitronny wrote:

    i think you will find that portugal had the clearer chances to beat brazil and had a blatant handball penalty turned down.
    so they must have counter attacked,spain will struggle to score against them,i,m sure of that,as i,m sure portugal will eventually win the tie.

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  • 78. At 9:02pm on 28 Jun 2010, Fed_Borg wrote:

    @ cinnamon & neil_h, you two take the prize, what are you trying to do, defened your favorite? C'mon, Villa is carrying this team & as I said as soon as Spain face a team with the stomach for a fight they will go out. Del Bosque will start him, he is stuck in the past like Capello.

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  • 79. At 9:54pm on 28 Jun 2010, davebellmk wrote:

    There's no doubt Torres is holding Spain back. It hasn't cost them yet, but only because Villa has got them out of jail. If Del Bosque perseveres with him, it probably won't cost them either till they get to the semis, by which time he may be fitter or injured which he now seems too prone to.

    A great player when fully fit, but in this tournament much like Kaka, a shadow of the player he can be, a passenger in a good team.

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  • 80. At 10:19pm on 28 Jun 2010, Atom2010 wrote:

    "Spaniards, and particularly the Spanish media, are very successful at turning the most marginal victory into a huge triumph."

    I had to get my bit in here too as the previous posters have said soo many times - the irony indeed !!!

    As for torres - good player but he's either unfit or his mind is elsewhere so yeah i say give some other guy a chance and if needed throw him on as a late substitute.

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  • 81. At 10:38pm on 28 Jun 2010, Will wrote:

    Here's my opinion on the matter: Torres must start.

    He's not at full fitness, not on top form, but any Liverpool fan will tell you that doesn't mean a lot when you're talking about Fernando Torres.

    Any defender on the planet would rather play against Pedro than Fernando Torres, whether he's fit or not! The point is, Torres breeds fear in the opposition, and if for some reason the Portuguese defence underestimates him tomorrow, it could be their undoing.

    Torres is a world class striker, a very rare type of player - a game changer. There are only a handful of players around the world who fit into that category, players who can do seemingly impossible things.

    Torres must start.

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  • 82. At 01:44am on 29 Jun 2010, cinnamon wrote:

    @Fed_Borg

    I understand and respect your views - that's why this whole thread is drawing so much division after all. However, I'm just pointing out that Torres is a player who has proven he can do the business. Put it this way, his impact for Atletico was prodigious in what was then a mediocre team. He's gone to Liverpool and moved up several notches in his all round play and unlocked that potential both scoring domestically and in Europe against the best of defenders in the best of teams - even though Liverpool have been poor. He has already proven he can score big goals in big games for Spain and this is why his team mates value him.

    All strikers (bar none) go through poor patches, especially after lengthy injuries and fitness plays a big part. History has repeatedly shown Torres going through these initial periods for Liverpool and then explode.

    Of course Torres' record for Spain isn't prolific - but that's because Villa asumes that role better for Spain and you can't always have two similar strikers. The argument here is "should he play while not at his best" which is a fair enough point to mull over - some will say yes, like me and some will say no on the premise of current predicament.

    I am defending Torres because it astounds me that many here are debating "Torres is a spent force... ineffective against big teams" etc which I absolutely cannot watch without highlighting the evidence.

    The bottom line is: gamble with Torres (as all big teams gave such gambles with their best players in these situations - sometimes it pays off and sometimes not) I believe and so do others, that it's a worthy gamble (no point repeating reasons why) but I DO understand and respect why some may say he shouldn't.

    I'm sure Spain don't care who plays as long they win in the end. That is a question the manager, coaches and indeed Torres performance in training should dictate.

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  • 83. At 01:55am on 29 Jun 2010, cinnamon wrote:

    Tevez scores more for Argentina than messi - but doesn't make him better. Messi's play creates goals. For Liverpool, Torres plays as main striker, for Spain he can do what Villa can't - play as rough-and-tumble target man who can lay off balls for the frenetic energy of Villa yet also score when he is needed to be the main man.

    let's see what happens anyway. Should be a good game regardless of if Torres plays or not.

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  • 84. At 03:18am on 29 Jun 2010, wongwckz wrote:

    Spain should learn lessons from England, drop the big name and play as a squad like Germany, then they can reach further in this world cup.

    Torres is excellent only if he fits but injury and fitness deludes him. Del Bosque can bring him to play when Spain is winning to improve his fitness, certainly not from the start for me as he is disappointing throughout the tournament. Spain have enough players to make up a decent squad to fight

    Hope Del Bosque won't make same mistakes as Capello to rely on big name.

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  • 85. At 05:59am on 29 Jun 2010, ninetofivegrind wrote:

    "Spaniards, and particularly the Spanish media, are very successful at turning the most marginal victory into a huge triumph."

    LOL.....says the English jorno with no apparent hint of irony.

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  • 86. At 06:32am on 29 Jun 2010, Miguelito wrote:

    Come on!

    The problem of Spain in the World Cup is NOT Torres, it is Del Bosque, who is unable to use effectively the talent of world class players he has in the team. Just take out Bousquets, put Xavi more to the back so he can direct the game and pace, put Cesc Fabregas -how in hell Del Bosque doesn't use this great player? - and link him with Villa and Torres in front with iniesta providing the link to both of them with Cesc. That's a winning team.

    The problem is not Torres, the problem is the poor tactics of Del Bosque. Even with this great team, he could be responsible of a disappointing performance in the World Cup. It is unfortunate, as I feel this is the team of a generation.

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  • 87. At 08:56am on 29 Jun 2010, Fed_Borg wrote:

    @ cinnamon, I totally agree with you and I apologise if I gave the impression that he is spent force. Of course he is not, as a Man Utd fan I can attest to the fact that he is one of the best. Just that in this World Cup he is not delivering.
    How ever if I go by what you say, remember Rooney has also just come back from a lengthy injury, so why are people not giving him a break.

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  • 88. At 09:40am on 29 Jun 2010, Top_Drog wrote:

    Yes it is true that Torres has been off form of late. I understand Del Bosque's faith in him because we all know what Torres is capable of on his day. I'm with Del Bosque, he should keep him in the squad but maybe he can start him on the bench.

    Torres is not a striker whom defences can ignore even if he is not at his best. but his presence will create opportunities for others because they will give him a measure of attention and other players will have a chance to score. So Torres should still play a part in Spain's World Cup campaign.

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  • 89. At 09:48am on 29 Jun 2010, Spaced Invader wrote:

    So many people are using this blog as a chance to knock England and the English for their inflated expectations. Surely nothing can be as inflated as a team with a DISMAL world cup record like Spain (even though they've even had the advantage of hosting one) thinking they were the joint favourites?

    How fsr into insanity does a person have to be to think that Spain (no wins, no finals) will beat Brazil (five wins, seven finals) in a World Cup outside of Europe?! Winning a limited tournament in Austria was a good start for Spain, but as the second round draw proves (and the Confed Cup) - any tournament outside of Europe is never going to be won by players not used to inter-continental travel.

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  • 90. At 12:21pm on 29 Jun 2010, DrCajetanCoelho wrote:


    Spain and Portugal are well matched. Eduardo and Iker are experienced keepers. Pujol and Ricardo Carvalho play with zeal and enthusiasm. Injuries to Torres and Nani have disturbed the planning of Senor Del Bosque and Professor Carlos Queiroz. Ronaldo, Iniesta, Villa and Simao are guys who are expected to provide the fireworks this evening. Best wishes to the players and their fans.


    Dr. Cajetan Coelho

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  • 91. At 12:39pm on 29 Jun 2010, neil_h wrote:

    "As for Torres, he has been shown up, against top class, highly motivated defenders, he has nothing to offer"

    Fed_Borg stop back peddling from previous comments like the one above.

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  • 92. At 2:39pm on 29 Jun 2010, iida wrote:

    Torres makes Villa play better. He creates opportunities for Villa to go ahead and score. Sure, he's not fully fit, but I do think he's valuable for the team and should be in the starting line-up today.

    As for Del Bosque's tactics, I can't agree more with those who say he's not getting the best out of his team. With players this good, Spain should be playing a lot better. Why Del Bosque is not having Cesc Fàbregas on the field, I cannot fathom. Cesc is one of the best midfielders out there. A combination of Villa and Torres striking, and Fàbregas in centre midfield, could be just what they need to beat Portugal.

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  • 93. At 3:55pm on 29 Jun 2010, Gavelaa wrote:

    post 89 - So many people are using this blog as a chance to knock England and the English for their inflated expectations. Surely nothing can be as inflated as a team with a DISMAL world cup record like Spain (even though they've even had the advantage of hosting one) thinking they were the joint favourites?

    How fsr into insanity does a person have to be to think that Spain (no wins, no finals) will beat Brazil (five wins, seven finals) in a World Cup outside of Europe?! Winning a limited tournament in Austria was a good start for Spain, but as the second round draw proves (and the Confed Cup) - any tournament outside of Europe is never going to be won by players not used to inter-continental travel.

    ------------------------------------------------------------------------

    I'm not sure this makes any coherant sense. What bearing does Spain's record in the world cup in decades gone by with different players, different managers and different styles have on their chances this time?

    Players not used to inter-continental travel?

    1) What difference would that make? Some sort of psychological level?
    2) Spain's players surely are used to such travel. Barcelona won the FIFA World Club Cup last year in Japan.


    Essentially you are basing Brazil and Spain's chances on the strength of their names. Quite astonishing if it is not a joke. Spain's chances are should be based on looking at their recent record, from 2007 onwards, with this general group of players. It is phenomenal. Winning Euro 2008 against Europe's best demonstrated much more than losing one game in the Confederations Cup, an unimportant tournament, to the USA who are really a poor side.

    Spain are not perfect, but nor are Brazil. They really should be joint favourites - 1 and 2 teams in the world, continental champions. History has nothing, nothing to do with it.

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  • 94. At 3:56pm on 29 Jun 2010, Gavelaa wrote:

    @ Fed Borg, Rooney coming back from a lengthy injury?

    He missed what, 3 fixtures for Man United, intermittently as well. Injury can be absolutely no exuse for Rooney. He is just burnt out.

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  • 95. At 4:40pm on 29 Jun 2010, perfidiousalbion wrote:

    68. At 5:42pm on 28 Jun 2010, jackb wrote:
    knowing that idiot del bosque he will take him out of the team. i dont understand how he leaves out a player, fabregas, who is equal or better than iniesta and xavi,
    --------------------------------

    Typical anglocentric view of the world.

    Keep in mind that Torres and Cesc play in England because they weren't good enough to play in La Liga.

    (Now that Cesc has grown up a bit we may take him back).

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  • 96. At 5:23pm on 29 Jun 2010, neil_h wrote:

    Your arrogance undermines any opinion you might have. Torres not good enough for Spanish League? I think not, he would benefit greatly against the weaker defenses that are not nearly as physical. When he left Atletico, Valencia were on the slide and Sevilla have never been serious challengers to Madrid or Barca so Torres really only had two options, Barca or abroad.

    He came to Liverpool and broke scoring records and stepped up to the plate in the Euro 2008 final when Villa was injured.

    As for Fabregas I would say that you are confused, he left as a 15 year old and was in the first team playing Barcelona in the final of the CL in 2006. Barcelona's youth system is to be applauded no doubt but dont for one minute think that because you have fantastic homegrown players and you play nice football and you won the European Cup recently it makes your entire league superior. English clubs record in the CL disproves this, and before you comment I am talking about the club sides and the league as a whole as opposed to the national team, we all know that has abjectly failed.

    However La liga is turning into the Clydesdale Bank Premier League the other side of Hadrians wall.

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  • 97. At 5:24pm on 29 Jun 2010, neil_h wrote:

    @ perfidiousalbion

    Your arrogance undermines any opinion you might have. Torres not good enough for Spanish League? I think not, he would benefit greatly against the weaker defenses that are not nearly as physical. When he left Atletico, Valencia were on the slide and Sevilla have never been serious challengers to Madrid or Barca so Torres really only had two options, Barca or abroad.

    He came to Liverpool and broke scoring records and stepped up to the plate in the Euro 2008 final when Villa was injured.

    As for Fabregas I would say that you are confused, he left as a 15 year old and was in the first team playing Barcelona in the final of the CL in 2006. Barcelona's youth system is to be applauded no doubt but dont for one minute think that because you have fantastic homegrown players and you play nice football and you won the European Cup recently it makes your entire league superior. English clubs record in the CL disproves this, and before you comment I am talking about the club sides and the league as a whole as opposed to the national team, we all know that has abjectly failed.

    However La liga is turning into the Clydesdale Bank Premier League the other side of Hadrians wall.




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  • 98. At 6:19pm on 29 Jun 2010, toolpwn wrote:

    I'd play Pedro ahead of Torres. I think we learnt this lesson at the weekend, just because certain players have a big reputation it doesn't mean they should start if they aren't in form. Torres isn't in form, he's had a stop and start season and doesn't look fully fit. Pedro has had a cracking season for Barcelona and is, on current form, a better player than Torres.

    I don't buy into this whole "talisman" crap, Torres has had a few VERY poor games so far in this World Cup and if Spain want to win, they have to pick the hungry players who are in form.

    I've always thought David Villa was the better striker anyway...I can't say I get all the fuss with Torres. Good player yes, but definitely not THE best Spanish footballer. If I was managing Portugal I'd be FAR more worried about Iniesta and Xavi than Torres. Without service he is, as most striker are without service, useless. Everyone knows that Xavi runs the game for the Spaniards, not Torres.

    I honestly don't think Torres would be missed if he didn't play any further part in the World Cup. Pedro, I feel, is ready to step up and prove himself on the World stage.

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  • 99. At 8:36pm on 30 Jun 2010, Phil Minshull wrote:

    I'm sure other people may have different opinions but nothing I saw last night has changed my mind and I still feel that Torres should be on the bench for the match on Saturday against Paraguay.

    To replace him, I would go for Llorente rather than Pedro. The former seems confident, in sharp contrast to Torres he is enjoying his World Cup experience, and he had several good opportunities last night.

    However, all the post-match comments eminating from the Spanish camp today appear to suggest that Del Bosque will still stick by Torres, which I feel is a mistake.

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  • 100. At 1:46pm on 01 Jul 2010, armchairstrategist wrote:

    Spain don't have a dilemma. Torres is struggling to be match-sharp but Del Bosque could play him for one half and use Llorente for the second as he did in the Chilean game. Del Bosque will be viewing this match as a stepping stone and he will want Torres to play a part later on. Any match practice that Torres can get will help him get back to his best. That can only bode well for Spain.
    The problem for Spain's opponents - whoever they are from hereon - is that the can expect to have the ball for just 30% of the game or less. Even against Chile, a side that is good at keeping possession, Spain had 59% of the ball. If you look at other opponents it was as high as 67% or 69%. Del Bosque is a shrewd coach and if Paraguay play defensively as everyone espects - he still has more options that most of the managers left in the tournament. If they cannot break Paraguay down using Torres and Villa up front, he'll bring on Llorente to provide an aerial threat and add width by bringing on Navas as he did late on against the Swiss.

    This Spanish team is going to be very difficult to beat whoever it plays. It is very patient, well organised, excellent at keeping possession and has arguably the best midfield and two best strikers in the tournament.

    If the Paraguayans press Iniesta and Javi in the midfield this will de facto speed up the Spanish passing, which, far from making them less of threat, will make them even more dangerous. If Spain have lacked anything thus far in this tournament it has been a sense of urgency in getting forward. Aragones is right on this because - put simply - speed and movement off the ball are very difficult to defend against.
    The Paraguayans will follow the Swiss model and rely on counter-attacks, however, it is a bit optimistic to imagine that Spain will be as profligate in front of goal as they were against the Swiss.
    The only danger for the Spanish is that they get lulled in believing that possession alone equates with dominance and victory. They paid the price for this against the Swiss.

    If the Spanish don't go on to win the World Cup it will be two-thirds their responsibility and will come down to a failure on their part to maximise the benefits of possession. Whatever the front pairing, Spain have more than enough to defeat any of the teams left in the tournament.

    It is also worth noting that Spain has just one yellow card so far, which means unlike some of the other teams it will be able to draw on virtually its entire squad as the tournament moves to its conclusion. That cannot be said for many of the other teams.

    Aupa España!

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  • 101. At 3:25pm on 06 Jul 2010, drew wrote:

    Spain need to utilise torres better as well. They have not been direct enough and have been trying to hard to score by doing 30 touches of intricate passes and walking it into the net.

    He may be on the verge of match fitness going up against germany so I would stick with him. But xavi and iniesta should try and release more direct balls for him to run on to when they counter after a german attack

    Germany will beat them unless they speed up their passing and become more direct

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