Torres: My tournament starts now
Spanish coach Luis Aragones took Fernando Torres off in the first game and he wasn't happy about it at all - but it wasn't personal and a buzzing Torres says his tournament starts now with the Furia Roja already in the last eight.
Torres, having unselfishly set up strike partner David Villa for the opener, gave way to Arsenal's Cesc Fabregas, who promptly scored his first goal for Spain in the 4-1 win over Russia as Villa went on to complete a hat trick.
But after coming here on the back of a record haul of English Premier League goals by a foreigner in his debut season following his arrival at Liverpool from Atletico Madrid for 53 million dollars, Torres is now just coming to the boil, as he showed with the opener in the 2-1 win over Sweden.
"Where you have to show your mettle is from the quarter-finals," says Torres, conscious that this is where the Spanish train, no matter how chock full of talent, normally hits the buffers.
With Italy, who have several times proved a bete noire for Spain, potentially lurking in those quarters -- though it could be France or Romania -- nobody in Luis Aragones' camp is getting over-confident.
But Torres says the focus could not be clearer with top spot wrapped up in the group. "We have accomplished our objective to finish as group winners, but we must not fail in the quarter-finals. That's where you see the strong sides," says the 24-year-old. And he insists he has no preference for his team's next opponents. "I don't have a preference for Romania, Italy or France. All three are strong teams."
Torres is keen to play down any idea that Spain, whose only senior title came at UEFA EURO 64, might be slipping into the role of favourites. "Being a favourite does not mean anything. Nobody can really name a favourite. You have to get out there and do the business on the field. We have been favourites often enough and then not reached the required level on the day. We do not feel like favourites and I don't think we are," he insists.
Torres, who noted Saturday that Spain "always start well," had not scored since September of last year in Spanish red but insisted after the win over the Swedes that this could not be construed as a drought as "Spain only play every three months or so. The important thing is championships, where a goal serves to get you three points."
Now he has broken his EURO 2008 duck at only the second time of asking having only had 55 minutes on the field in any case in a first match where his hard work was the springboard for Villa's three-goal show.
Torres was happy to see his sidekick notch yet another goal with the last-gasp winner against Sweden - even if it means he himself has a way to go if he has any designs on being tournament top scorer. "I am not bothered at all. David Villa has scored four goals and me one. I hope we score plenty more between us. If he ends up as the top scorer in the competition that will mean we have played a lot of matches and gone a long way."
Torres' goal on Saturday was his 16th in 51 internationals but he insisted modestly that he is not on an ego trip. "My goals are not for me but for the whole country. The best thing for me would be to bag one in the final."