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Spain Exorcises Demons Against Honduras

David Villa earned the lion’s share of personal triumph as Spain put their fears of having been over-hyped to rest. In a mostly one-sided match, La Furia Roja made it clear that the debacle against Switzerland was a fluke, winning 2-0. What’s more, it would seem that the Spanish have still not tapped the entirety of their potential, as they seemed once again almost perturbingly relaxed once the game was under control.

The score line should have read 3-0, but a blown penalty kick by Villa cut short his World Cup treble in the making. Changing the lineup, Del Bosque gave the start to Fernando Torres, who continued to shake off the rust of his convalescence as he threatened goal several times, but to no avail. Jesus Navas of Sevilla also found himself starting as well, to significant effect. With he and Villa flanking and Torres in the middle, Spain’s attack was as irresistible a force as it should have been all along.

Within minutes there were shots on goal, one straight from Torres to GK Noel Valladares and one from a confident Villa into the crossbar. The impudent long ball was characteristic of Villa’s performance all night, as he bounded across the pitch with a confident hunger.

After forcing a decent save from St. Iker, Honduras conceded in the 20th. Villa cut hard through the defense and found himself facing the goal, but at an impossible angle. He rode the momentum though, laying down and popping a shot off into the upper right corner as he fell. His path to the goal was as fluid as it was deadly, leaving two defenders in his wake before closing the deal in true John Woo-style.

In the 33rd, there was a moment when Torres seemed sure to open his WC account, as the ever-present Sergio Ramos put a brilliant cross his way. Unfortunately, his header was infuriatingly off the mark and added only to his growing pile of dangerous but unfruitful attempts. He later danced into the box, only to balloon the shot. Keep at it, Fernando.

Six minutes into the second half, Honduras found themselves in a frightening position: four-on-four with attacking Spaniards. It could have been any one of them, but Villa took the last touch before blasting one goalward from just outside the box. The deflection off of Osman Chavez altered the trajectory a bit, but the ball was destined for the bag to complete Villa’s brace.

The brace should have been a treble, though, as the wily Navas was brought down inside the box by Emilio Izaguirre. Villa had the chance, sized it up, and scooted it wide. The sight was a painful one, but there was still no doubt that Spain, dominant in possession, chances, and goals, had this one under control. The score line would stay where it was until full time.

Besides Villa, a few other players had moments of note. The 57th saw Gerard Pique take his second cleat to the face so far this tournament. This one caught him in the mouth, and left him spitting blood and choking on a face full of (coagulant?) spray before stuffing his face with gauze and hitting the pitch looking like a wounded but loyal bull dog. Let’s take a moment to recognize a stalwart.

In the 65th, an urgent-looking Cesc Fabregas finally hit the pitch, coming in for Xavi. His eagerness was on display as he ran shuttles between every Honduran he could get his feet on for the rest of the game.

In the 69th, Torres left the pitch with disappointment in his eyes, as he was subbed out for Mata. The decision to pull him was a close one, sure to be debated, but it’s only a matter of time until #9 gets over the hump and starts changing the game again. Hopefully, anyway.

Spain’s style was decidedly more urgent than last time, but between the iminent resurgences of Fabregas and Torres, and the still-present undercurrent of casualness and ease that infuses a lot of their play, we can be sure that the best is still yet to come. Look for the Red Fury to be even sharper against Chile, the most dynamic of the Group H bunch so far.

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