Spain's No.9: 'Euphoric' Torres rolls back the years to make light of Villa absence

The Chelsea forward looked sharp and scored La Roja's first in a 4-1 win over South Korea on Wednesday. And with the Barcelona man sidelined, it looks like a timely return to form
By Ben Hayward | Spain Expert

Sometimes you don't know what you have until it is gone.

Deservedly dropped for Spain's friendly fixture against Venezuela in late February, Fernando Torres looked to be slipping out of the international reckoning. But a recent recovery in Chelsea's dramatic end-of-season run plus the news that David Villa was set to miss out on Euro 2012 brought a second chance for El Nino. On Wednesday, he grabbed it with both hands.

David Villa
Fernando Hierro
Fernando Torres
Fernando Morientes
Emilio Butragueno
Alfredo Di Stefano
Julio Salinas
Telmo Zarra
51 (82)
44 (102)
29 (89)
28 (92)
27 (47)
26 (69)
23 (31)
23 (56)
21 (66)
20 (20)
Already assured his place in the Spain squad for the continental competition, Torres looked much more like the player who had fired La Roja to Euro 2008 glory four years ago.

His fine glancing header gave Spain the lead in a comfortable 4-1 win over South Korea on Wednesday (before a Xabi Alonso penalty, a Santi Cazorla free kick and an Alvaro Negredo strike sealed a straightforward success). But it was more than that. For the first time in many months, Torres proved an asset and not a burden to his national side. His intelligent running and link-up play made light of Villa's absence: here was a man who could fill in for Spain's greatest goalscorer. Vicente del Bosque must have been delighted.

Torres, the Spain coach said afterwards, had been 'euphoric'. Such a word has hardly been associated recently with the player, who has repeatedly revealed his unhappiness - even after winning the Champions League earlier in May.

The goal was Torres' first for Spain in almost a year and saw him move up to fourth place in the list of all-time top scorers for La Roja, behind just Villa, Raul and Fernando Hierro.

Two more will see him surpass the legendary Real Madrid defender and Del Bosque will be confident he can do just that in the forthcoming friendly against China or - even better - in Euro 2012 itself.

"I hope to get to the final of the Euros behind just Villa and Raul," the striker added. And it would be quite a story if he could be the hero again, as he was in 2008 when his solitary strike saw Spain beat Germany in Vienna to start this precious cycle of which he has played a pivotal role.

Now, thanks to his timely return to form, he can really feel part of it again.

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