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 Ã¢ÂÂRaÃÂºlÃ¢ÂÂ, the beatified yet still absent striker and national icon who has become a stick with which to beat coach Luis AragonÃÂ©s 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 Ã¢ÂÂEs-pan-ya! Es-pan-ya!Ã¢ÂÂ, the chants for RaÃÂºl 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 werenÃ¢ÂÂt their normal fluid selves and Torres hadnÃ¢ÂÂt been able to reproduce his Liverpool form. Then, suddenly, David Villa - who hadnÃ¢ÂÂt 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 Ã¢ÂÂnot knowing how to competeÃ¢ÂÂ, have won without playing well. And they say thatÃ¢ÂÂs the true mark of champions. Ã¢ÂÂTheyÃ¢ÂÂ of course being the Spanish themselves. Ã¢ÂÂWinning like this, anythingÃ¢ÂÂs possibleÃ¢ÂÂ declared Marca, while AS led on Ã¢ÂÂPermission to dreamÃ¢ÂÂ.