Spain got their UEFA EURO 2008 campaign off to the best possible start with a 4-1 rout of Group D rivals Russia. David Villa, a surprise starter, was the hero for the Spaniards in Innsbruck with the first hat-trick of these finals. In the second match on Tuesday, holders Greece looked like grinding their way to a goalless draw before Zlatan Ibrahimovic sparked a 2-0 Swedish victory in Salzburg with a stunning opener on 67 minutes.
Spain 4-1 Russia
Goals: David Villa 20, 44, 75, Cesc Fabregas 90+ (Spain), Roman Pavlyuchenko 86 (Russia)
Spain signalled their intent with a comprehensive 4-1 defeat of Guus Hiddink's Russians. David Villa was the star of the day with the first EURO hat-trick since 2000. Arsenal ace Cesc Fabregas, who came on off the bench in the second half, put the finishing touches to the lopsided scoreline after Roman Pavlyuchenko pulled one back for the Russians with five minutes to go.
Sweden 2-0 Greece
Goals: Zlatan Ibrahimovic 67, Petter Hansson 72
It took Sweden's Zlatan Ibrahimovic a full 67 minutes to find a crack in the Greeks' resolute rearguard. Collecting a give-and-go at the edge of the box, the Inter Milan striker ended a personal national team goal drought of more than two years with a stunning right-footed drive past the outstretched Antonis Nikopolidis. Just five minutes later Petter Hansson guaranteed maximum points when he scrambled home from close range after a calamitous mix-up in the Greek defence.
Pick of the day
Spain-Russia: The crucial moment came well before a ball was kicked in anger as Spain boss Luis Aragones decided to give up on his preferred five-man midfield and put David Villa up front alongside usual lone ranger Fernando Torres. The pairing combined to create Spain's first goal and new man Villa went on to grab a treble in a 4-1 rout of the weary Russians.
Quote of the day
"If you just look at the result without seeing the game then you would think that Spain were superior and Russia didn't have any chances. We were rather naive in many situations and we didn't have any luck with hitting the bar and post. The lesson is that we are playing well and created some chances but we were caught out on too much naivety and then got punished," Russia coach Guus Hiddink.
The numbers game
3 - Spain's three-goal margin of victory against Russia on Tuesday was, amazingly, the first time La Furia Roja have won a game by more than one goal in the history of the EURO finals. That includes their title-winning campaign of 1964.
EURO 2008 returns to Group A on Wednesday with joint-table-toppers Czech Republic and Portugal meet in Geneva. Switzerland and Turkey will face off in Basel in hopes of getting their respective campaigns on track.
Luiz Felipe Scolari's Portuguese opened their account with a clinical 2-0 win over Turkey in which Cristiano Ronaldo showed glimpses of his genius despite not figuring in the scoresheet. The Czechs, for their part, were fortunate to make their lone goal stand and get the better of a lively looking Swiss outfit. Czech captain Tomas Ujfalusi is rightly fearful of the Portuguese, claiming: "We'll have to be very careful and attentive. Our defence will have to be impeccable."
In the day's second match, the Swiss co-hosts and Turkey will be looking to get their first goal and first points of the finals. The Turks were dealt a blow on the eve of the contest as they will have to make do without captain Emre, out with a hamstring injury. He will join Swiss top scorer Alexander Frei, who will miss the rest of the finals after suffering ligament damage in the opener.
Have your say
Are Spain ready to cast off their reputation as underachievers and 'nearly men' at a major finals?