Gniewino, Poland – A wildly celebrating Fernando Torres dominated the front pages of Spain's daily newspapers on Friday in a manner not seen since he became a national hero by scoring the winning goal against Germany in the final of Euro 2008.
The striker's double in Thursday's 4-0 Group C drubbing of Ireland, in which he was man of the match, suggested he might be getting close to his best form after a period during which his eye for goal and his confidence seemed to have deserted him.
The first strike after four minutes, a powerful shot into the roof of the net from 10 metres, put Spain in the driving seat and his second 20 minutes from time was a clinical finish past Shay Given after he was played through by David Silva.
“Scoring early settled us down and dispelled any doubts we might have had,” Torres, whose baby-faced looks have earned him the nickname “El Nino” (the kid), said in an interview with Spanish radio station Cadena Ser.
“I am pleased with my personal performance but mainly happy because the team won,” added the 28-year-old, whose 29th and 30th goals for Spain – on his 95th appearance – lifted him above Fernando Hierro into third on their all-time scoring list.
“We needed a performance like that, with everyone doing their job well in their position, and we are coming away with a positive feeling knowing that we are as strong as ever.
“Clearly, I hope to play and we all hope to play but the main thing is that Spain wins,” he said.
Coach Vicente del Bosque started with Torres for the Ireland game after opting to play without a recognised striker in Sunday's 1-1 draw against Italy, when he deployed midfielder Cesc Fabregas in a roving forward role.
Fabregas replaced Torres in the 74th minute on Thursday and his pumped up celebration when he scored Spain's fourth goal suggested he was a bit frustrated at starting on the bench.
“We are all going to have a role to play at this European Championship,” Torres said.
“Today Cesc scored when he came on and that shows Spain has various systems that can work well depending on the situation.
“We will all be fighting in training to win a place in the team but if someone else plays that's fine.
“We will have various kinds of matches and different types of opponents and there will be various systems we will have to use.
“The important thing is that we have this flexibility and we will respect whatever the coach decides.”
Spain's third and final Group C match is against Croatia on Monday with the two sides joint top on four points ahead of Italy on two and Ireland on none.
Even if the Italians beat the Irish, who are already out, they would be eliminated as long as the Spain and Croatia game is a scoring draw of two goals each or more.
Torres dismissed any suggestion Spain would be doing anything other than gunning for victory.
“Spain always have to go out to win and we can't worry about what other teams are doing if we don't have our progress to the next round secured,” he said.
“We have seen various matches of (Croatia's) and they are a dangerous side with a pretty good counter attack.
“All we are thinking about is winning the last match and topping the group and we just want to continue playing the same way and find the same rhythm.” – Reuters