David Villa was the only think coming down heavier than the rain in Innsbrook today as Spain asserted their dominance over Russia in a 4-1 victory. The Valencia striker surely just assured himself a transfer and huge pay day with his stunning hat trick, making the Russian defense look a more like suburban rec team than the national starting back line. While Fernando Torres continues to struggle to score goals for his country, the 4-4-2 formation that Luis Aragones opted for instead of the more defensive 4-5-1 that the Spanish had used in their qualifying campaign, was a terrific tactical decision. Having Torres and Villa up front should help Spain score more goals than anyone else in the group stage. Even though the score sheet reads 4-1, Spain does have some major issues to address in their defense, Sergio Ramos alone turned the ball over 3 times in the back 1/3 as well as giving away another 3 free kicks to the Russians. Russia deserved at least 2 goals in the match, but again they lacked the ability to finish off their chances, proving why they are an average team and not a good team. For Russia to overcome this opening round loss they must defend better as a team, and continue to pressure high, and capitalize on their number up in the midfield. Spain needs to be wary of the same issues that Holland does, they need to learn how to close out a game defensively, rather than always looking for their outside backs to push up field. Even when Fabregas entered the game to gave Spain a 4-5-1, it did not help to eliminate the Russian chances. due to their overaggressive runs particularly on the flanks. Spain are obviously the favorites the win this group, especially after today's performance and if they can figure out a way to bolster their defense they are going to be tough to beat over the next 2 1/2 weeks.
Meanwhile the soap opera back in Bristol continues to entertain, the focal point of their post-match coverage revolved around the ongoing controversy of the Italy-Holland match, and Ruud van Nistelrooy's opening goal. What started out as a civilized discussion before their first commercial break, turned into a 5 man (yes I know Julie Foudy was there), a 5-man clusterf&%k, that saw Tommy Smyth and Andy Gray shout over the top of some ESPN contributor/CONCACAF referee/whipping boy who protected UEFA's decision and newly released clarification of the "active" role of Christian Panucci. Gray admitted that every manager, player, and adviser in England he talked to disagreed with the ruling, saying that Panucci was inactive in the play and therefore van Nistelrooy was offside.