Torres on road to redemption
Spain striker Fernando Torres is rediscovering his form at the perfect time after scoring his first tournament goals since the Euro 2008 final and justifying his place in a squad he was in danger of missing out on.
Torres rifled home after four minutes in the 4-0 demolition of Ireland on Thursday that put Spain top of Group C and added the third with a solo run for his 30th goal in 95 games for his country and move up to third on their all-time scorers list.
"We had possession of the ball and we had to make the best use of his speed and movement," coach Vicente Del Bosque said.
"He played the ideal match and those people who thought he could play the first game as well are also partly right," said the coach who used Torres as a late substitute against Italy.
Only weeks before the tournament, a lacklustre Torres was at serious risk of losing his place in the squad travelling to Poland and Ukraine to defend the European crown he helped them win four years earlier in Austria and Switzerland.
His goalless 2010 World Cup and a 50 million pounds ($77.72 million) move to Chelsea in January 2011 that saw him fail to immediately rediscover his once lethal form had Del Bosque considering leaving the 28-year-old at home this summer.
The absence of Spain's injured all-time top scorer David Villa and Torres' gradual return to form late in the season earned him a stay of execution.
The blond-haired, baby-faced forward known as "el nino" (the kid) came off the bench for Chelsea to net the goal that killed off Barcelona in their Champions League semifinal second leg.
He then looked sharp when thrown into the fray in the final against Bayern Munich on May 19, winning the corner that led to Didier Drogba's leveller with Chelsea going on to win the coveted trophy on penalties against all the odds.
The start of the Euros saw him take his now familiar place on the bench again as Spain kicked off their title defence without a recognised striker in a 1-1 draw with Italy in Gdansk.
But Torres in 16 aggressive minutes on the pitch as a late substitute strengthened the argument that he should start.
Del Bosque made amends on Thursday and the forward paid him back for the trust he had shown, charging forward like a thoroughbred out of the starting gate.
"It was not a disappointment," Torres said of being left out for the first game after receiving the man of the match award on Thursday. "We know we're playing in the best team in the world. It's not disappointing to be on the bench in this kind of team.
"I was lucky today to be selected but if in the next game the manager decides to select someone else that's fine," he said.
It will be difficult now for Del Bosque to look elsewhere after it took Torres only four minutes to score when he rifled home after stealing the ball inside the box.
He completed his restitution with a fine solo run and solid finish to claim a stake for a permanent place as Spain look to go where no team has gone before by winning their third major title in a row.