Should Spain get to the FIFA World Cup™ Final, in-form striker David Villa could write a new page in the tournament's history and over-take Raul as his country's all-time top scorer.
Whereas strike partner Fernando Torres has laboured in four scoreless appearances on his return from ankle surgery in April, Villa appears to have the Midas touch. Virtually everything the Barcelona new boy has touched has been turning to goal, the hiccup of an early loss to Switzerland aside. For a generation, Spanish fans have been weaned on goals from Real Madrid goalscoring machine Raul, but suddenly his 44 goals in 102 games look mundane because 'Maravilla' has already smashed 42, in 40 games less.
Despite their stellar midfield and two of the best strikers in the world, Spain have generally been finding goals hard to come by, with just five in four games. But give Villa a half-chance and he tends to snap it up -- hence his personal haul of four goals so far, matched only by Argentina's Gonzalo Higuain and Slovakia's Robert Vittek. With Vittek having departed the tournament, Villa and Higuain are vying for the adidas Golden Boot for top scorer, though the likes of Brazil's Luis Fabiano and German pair Thomas Muller and Miroslav Klose may have something to say about that.
Villa, 28, has already become the top marksman for Spain in FIFA World Cup history with seven goals to date, leaving behind legendary figures such as Emilio Butragueno, Fernando Hierro, Fernando Morientes and Raul himself, who all netted five times at the tournament.
Villa, Barcelona's 40-million-euro capture from Valencia, modestly insists that Torres's very presence and reputation gives him more space in which to operate, to devastating effect. "The only thing you can 'reproach' [Torres] for is not to have scored yet. His desire to be with the team is truly spectacular," Villa told Spanish television. "We know what state his knee was in a month ago and I do not agree with those people who say that Fernando Torres' performances have been below par."
In the Round-of-16 win over Portugal, Torres gave way to Fernando Llorente of Athletic Bilbao on the hour but Villa insisted that "Torres helped the side a lot against Portugal and Llorente continued that work". He added: "Torres is not in bad form. He has admirable character and we all know his World Cup moment will arrive -- hopefully against Paraguay on Saturday."
At his current rate of a goal a game in South Africa, Villa would draw level with Raul by scoring in that game, then adding another in the semi-finals against either Germany or Argentina. It would then remain for him to consign Raul's haul to history with goal number 45 in the Final -- something that would surely make up for missing Spain's UEFA EURO 2008 coronation in Vienna through injury, when it was match-winner Torres who stole all the limelight.