Four years can seem like a lifetime in football, just ask Fernando Torres.
- Currently 5/2 favourites in the Euro 2012 Betting
- Roberto Soldado, Fernando Llorente and Alvaro Negredo set to shine up front
Two years later he struggled in the World Cup yet still ended it with a medal around his neck, yet now he faces watching the Euro 2012 tournament from the one place that would have seemed unthinkable back on that night in the Austrian capital: the beach.
The form of forwards such as Fernando Llorente, the Athletic Bilbao man who helped knock Manchester United out of the Europa League, Valencia’s free-scoring Roberto Soldado and the Sevilla striker Alvaro Negredo has left Chelsea’s Torres on the outside looking in, with the £50million man’s struggles in front of goal in west London hardly endearing him to national team boss Vicente de Bosque.
Even without David Villa – who looks almost certain to miss the finals after failing to recover from the broken tibia he sustained in December – Torres is far from certain to be on the plane to Poland and the Ukraine, where the world and European champions (best priced 13/5 with Bwin) will go as favourites.
The reasons for that favourites tag are already well established. In Gerard Pique, Carles Puyol, Sergio Busquets, Cesc Fabregas, Xavi, Andres Iniesta and Pedro Spain possess several of the cogs which make the all-conquering Barcelona machine tick.
Thankfully for Europe, Lionel Messi is from another continent.
Placed in Group C alongside Italy, the Republic of Ireland and Croatia, the sheer amount of talent available to the Spanish makes them impossible to ignore when considering prospective winners, although it might be worth keeping an eye on their opening match against Italy in Gdansk on the tournament’s third day, where a poor result would see their price drift.
Spain lost to Switzerland in their opening match of the 2010 World Cup only to win their next six and win the tournament, becoming the first side ever to bounce back in such a glorious manner.
A slip up against the Italians would add pressure to the later group matches against the Irish and Croatians, but expect Spain to emerge as Group C winners (8/13 with Betfred) and go on to face the runners-up in Group D – probably France or England – in the last eight.
It is there that Spain’s will to win rather than their outright quality that should shine through.
Had any other team won a World Cup by winning all four of their knockout matches 1-0 then they might be viewed as a negative, defensive outfit that showed a ruthless streak in only just dismissing opponents, but that wasn’t how Spain were remembered in 2010.
As well as the Barcelona brigade in the squad, players such as David Silva, Juan Mata and Xabi Alonso provide a quality that the other teams could only dream of, and whoever Del Bosque chooses to pick he is likely to take the strongest group of players that the tournament will see.
Those striking options will be worth keeping an eye on in the lookout for a potential top goalscorer, with all of Llorente (16/1 Paddy Power), Soldado (20/1 Paddy Power) and Negredo (20/1 Paddy Power) worth a punt if they are to be the chosen one to be put on the receiving end of the chances that the Spanish are bound to create.
Whether Torres is there to see those looks unlikely, but he’ll be just as interested an observer as the rest of us.