Talks of Fernando Torres’ demise have been greatly exaggerated.
The Chelsea striker known as “El Nino” put to bed any doubts about his form, scoring two goals in Spain’s 4-0 beatdown over Ireland. With the win, Spain vaulted on top of the Group C standings, separating themselves from Croatia through points differential.
Known for being one of the more dynamic players on the Spanish team, Torres’ play has been the subject of conjecture in the past couple of years. While some of it can be attribute to a plethora of injuries he’s sustained over the years, a lot of people have still questioned whether the 28-year old is on the decline.
But his performance against Ireland may have finally put all of that skepticism to rest. David Silva and Cesc Fabregas added the two goals for La Furia Roja, who finally showed the kind of dominant play that made them the tournament favorites to win their third international title in a row.
And if El Nino continues to play the way he did against the Irish, you wouldn’t find a whole lot of people betting against this team to make football history.
In the other Group C match, Italy and Croatia settled for a 1-1 draw, putting the Azzuri in a precarious situation of missing the quarterfinals despite not losing in any of their group matches. Midfielder Andrea Pirlo put the Italians up, 1-0, in the 39th minute with a beautiful free kick that found the back of the net.
Italy could have been up by more than just one goal, but multiple blown opportunities, particularly from Mario Balotelli, allowed the Croats to stay in the match long enough to find an equalizer. With the Italians scrambling in the second half, Croatia’s Mario Mandzukic scored his third goal of the tournament with a sharp strike that beat Italian goalie Gianluigi Buffon.
The 1-1 draw couldn’t have come as a better result for Croatia who now find themselves second in the Group C standings behind Spain with a match against the Spaniards in a few days. On the flip side, Italy find themselves on the outside looking in, needing a dominant win against Ireland in their final group match – and a Croatia loss to Spain – if it has any hope of reaching the final eight.