Villa magic allows Spain permission to dream

So, Spain beat Italy - dirty, boring, cynical, successful Italy - in Elche. 1-0 thanks to a fantastic volley from David Villa. And it could not have gone better. Which is a roundabout way of saying it could not have gone much worse.  Let La Liga Loca explain: some time soon after the hour, some of the fans - the ones that were still awake - starting chanted for “Raúl”, the beatified yet still absent striker and national icon who has become a stick with which to beat coach Luis Aragonés and the national team.

And although some of the other fans, tired of the former captain being used as a divisive tool against the national team, whistled and booed and drowned out the protest in a rendition of “Es-pan-ya! Es-pan-ya!”, the chants for Raúl showed just how rubbish the game had been.  Spain were only level because the referee kindly disallowed a perfectly valid Italian goal for Luca Toni and because Camoranesi had hit the post. They weren’t their normal fluid selves and Torres hadn’t been able to reproduce his Liverpool form. Then, suddenly, David Villa - who hadn’t been up to much until then - popped up and thumped in a brilliant goal to win the match.

Suddenly the Spanish, so often the pretty players without the edge, so often a team of talent without temperament, so often accused - by the own coach - of “not knowing how to compete”, have won without playing well. And they say that’s the true mark of champions. “They” of course being the Spanish themselves. “Winning like this, anything’s possible” declared Marca, while AS led on “Permission to dream”.

Permission granted.  

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