Fernando Torres scored twice against Ireland and rivals should beware his rising confidence.
By Peter Fraser - Follow me on Twitter @SkySportsPeteF
Last Updated: 14/06/12 10:47pm
Fernando Torres demonstrated against Republic of Ireland why he is the epitome of a confidence player. So often appearing to carry the problems of the world on his shoulders in his later days at Liverpool and, more recently, at Chelsea, the striker has now again demonstrated he is capable of firing his country to European glory.
So unconvinced was Vicente del Bosque about the No.9's form and state of mind after a season of suffering from squad rotation at Chelsea, the Spain boss started with the £50million forward on his bench against Italy in their opening game at Euro 2012. The defending champions instead decided to field a team containing six midfielders.
But with Spain having failed to make their 60 per cent dominance of possession count against Italy in a 1-1 draw, Torres returned to the starting line-up against Ireland and proved why he operates and relies upon self-belief.
Having entered off the bench against Italy, Torres was criticised for making a mess of a couple of chances. Having missed an initial effort, the former Atletico Madrid idol can often appear to psychologically struggle. He becomes frustrated with himself.
But, against Ireland, Torres took his first chance in some style. He robbed Richard Dunne of possession inside the penalty area, rounded Stephen Ward and fired over the head of some questionable goalkeeping by Shay Given.
Having scored after three minutes and 49 seconds, Torres netted the fastest goal in history by a Spaniard at a European Championship and in the process he was given an obvious boost in confidence. Gone was the player so often riddled by self-doubt for Chelsea. The former Liverpool superstar appeared to return.
With the buoyancy of a goal, the 28-year-old went on to deliver a performance close to his former brilliance as he ran, harried and chased down lost causes. With David Silva and Andres Iniesta flanking him in a three-pronged attack, he looked a constant threat.
From five attempted shots, four were on target. Even an audacious second-half attempt at a back-heeled finish gave evidence of his blossoming assurance. Torres went on to add a second goal after half-time when running clear of the Ireland defence and finishing past Given.
Previously, Torres has looked nervous in one-on-one situations and has overthought circumstances when offered too much time. He made no mistake this time and is now Spain's equal top scorer in history at European Championship finals with David Villa after netting four times.
One of Torres' previous goals of course came four years ago in Vienna as Spain ended their 44-year wait for international glory by winning Euro 2008. With his confidence on the rise, Del Bosque is unlikely to return him to the bench and opponents should beware for the rest of this summer's competition. History could be ready to repeat itself.