Torres makes Italy favourites
Spain striker Fernando Torres has made Italy favourites on paper to win Sunday's UEFA EURO 2008 quarter-final on Sunday, but said he was not worried about grappling with the world champions. The Italians have held the whip hand over Spain in major tournaments and coach Luis Aragones has been impressing upon them that they must be ready in mind as well as body.
But Torres, whose partnership with David Villa was a feature of
Spain's waltz through Group D in the opening phase, insists
La Furia Roja are raring to go. "Spain are playing
great and stylish football," he said.
"But Italy has kept faith with its style for years. Even if they are not that showy they are the favourites. But we are not afraid of them or their record. Italy are the current world champions and that's not an accident. Titles do not just get won for no reason.
" . They did not have a great opening phase but the same thing happened at the World Cup and they ended up winning it," Torres reflected.
In March, in the Spanish city of Elche, Spain thanked a Villa goal for a 1-0 win but that was a friendly. "We beat them in a friendly but now we have the chance to show what we are made of in an official competition. We are convinced we can beat them," insisted the man nicknamed El Nino, who had a tremendous first season at Anfield following his move from Atletico Madrid.
A win would not just end a hoodoo against the Italians, who beat them in two FIFA World Cup™ quarter-finals, but take Spain into their third semi-final after 1964, when they went on to win the competition, and 1984, when they lost the final to their other bogey team France.
"This coming match is very important for us and for the nation," said Torres. "It's important for the history of the Spanish squad and we are well aware of our capabilities. We can beat anyone.
The 24-year-old Torres has netted 16 times in 51 games for Spain to date, but has only struck once at EURO 2008, in the 2-1 win over Sweden. Villa, in contrast, began with a hat-trick against Russia and scored again against the Swedes, before Aragones rested his first-choice forward line for the final group win over Greece.
Torres says the Spanish have to get wise as to how to play Italy and be ready for the counter-attack. "Italy are going to let us play and allow us to move the ball around and control it. But we must not use this possession precipitously as we must make sure they do not catch us out on the counter-attack."
Torres also says that they must make the Italians chase the game. "We have to score first and then keep a hold of the ball and avoid the counter-attack," concluded Torres, warning that the Azzurri were masters of strategy and forcing other sides to fall in to their strategic trap unless their opponents got wise to a game plan which has aways served the Italians.
The three goals Spain conceded in the opening phase were from set-pieces and Italy are well capable of exploiting that defensive weakness again on the evidence of the group games. The Italians have identified Torres himself as a key threat and he noted that "when I have played against Italy or Italian sides I have been given a good reception and see they appreciate me. I want to win and give them cause to retain the same opinion of me."