Date: 11th June 2008 at 1:08pm
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David Villa’s price is rocketing upwards, that’s sure. The Valencia striker is regarded as one of the best in his position in Europe and is tipped to leave the struggling Spanish club this summer. But Valencia fans can look ahead with optimism: the club can demand an astronomical fee for this man.

I know that we are supposed to be looking for a big, strong centre-forward and while Villa ticks the third box, calling him ‘big and strong’ would be the overstatement of the millennium. He’s lightning quick and possesses wonderful technical ability so he could be a brilliant signing for us, I think – he could provide Ronaldo’s pace and goals.

His credentials were there for all to see yesterday as his one-man show crushed the hapless Russians – who, of course, finished ahead of England in the qualifiers… He linked with Fernando Torres to devastating effect and bagged the first hat-trick of the Euros with clinical precision. He was always involved, constantly looking for the ball, running at defenders, moving swiftly and intelligently when off the ball.

It was the magical Xavi once again who was pulling the strings throughout: we had the chance to witness his amazing ability at Old Trafford this season and his passing puts Fabregas in the shadows. What a pity that he’s a born and bred Catalan, loyal to the club (unlike the aforementioned Arsenal midfielder).

But it was not all just glory for Spain, despite the 4-1 victory. Their defence consisted only of Puyol at times as Sergio Ramos, Juan Capdevila and Carlos Marchena fell asleep. Granted, Russia did little to trouble them but they hit the post and scored a goal, causing massive confusion among the backline on occasions.

It mattered little as at the other end Villa and co. tore their slow and ponderous defence apart but against opponents who possess greater defensive qualities Spain cannot afford to be so careless at the back. Ramos and co. must concentrate as hard as Villa does when presented with a scoring opportunity.

I was looking forward to the second game of the day, Greece v Sweden. After all, the holders were in action against Larsson and co. – I’m sure all United fans have fond memories of Henke’s short stay at Old Trafford. Well, of this game I prefer to erase any memories.

It was truly horrible, like watching Romania v France again. Greece, surprising (and some would say undeserved though I do not agree with that) winners of Euro 2004 came for a 0-0 draw and set out to achieve their goal in a shameless manner: they deployed five defenders who, when got the ball, passed it around for a while, amid the booing from the stands before finally daring a forward pass that was usually a hoof and an aimless one at that.

Without the steeling presence and energy of Zagorakis who’s retired since, they were a pale shadow of that 2004 side. Sweden, though were afraid of them and did not even dare to press the defenders while they were passing among themselves. Yet they realised in the second half that this team is absolutely beatable and proved the theory, thanks to a brilliant goal by Ibrahimovic after nice interplay between him and Larsson. Football won in the end – and it’s hard to imagine Greece getting past the group stages this season.