Three quick thoughts on Spain-Honduras (World Cup Group H)
Three quick thoughts following Spain's 2-0 win over Honduras in Group H play on Monday:
1. Viva Villa! David Villa scored Spain's first goal of the tournament with a finish for the ages. The striker twisted and turned three Honduran defenders on a run from the left flank before delivering a right-footed cracker into the top right corner past diving keeper Noel Valladares. It was Villa's 39th goal (in 60 appearances) for Spain and his fourth goal in World Cup play, including the 2006 tournament. He then delivered No. 40 from the edge of the penalty area, a ball that was slightly deflected off Honduran defender Osman Chavez. Villa, signed by Barcelona just before the tournament, was a menace on the left side all game. He rattled a shot off the crossbar in the seventh minute and torched defender Sergio Mendoza early and often. Stunningly, he muffed a penalty kick (he missed the net entirely) in the 63rd minute that would have given him a hat trick.
2. All friends now? Cesc Fabregas, the Arsenal standout, told the Spanish newspaper Marca before the Honduras game that he was "not getting the minutes I would like." Teammate Gerard Pique agreed, saying he wanted Fabregas back in the lineup. More criticism for Spanish coach Vincente Del Bosque came from former coach Luis Aragones, who led Spain to the European Championships in 2008. He questioned why Xabi Alonso and Sergio Busquets were starting over Fabregas. (And we thought the Spanish were loving people, no?)
Against Honduras, Del Bosque inserted Fabregas for Xavi in the 66th minute and the central midfielder played like a demon, including nearly scoring a goal on his first touch. Unlike the loss to Switzerland, Del Bosque opted to start Liverpool star Fernando Torres up front with Villa, and Torres should have had a couple of tallies but he lacks sharpness because he's been out with a knee injury. Torres missed an easy header in the 33rd minute on a nice cross from Sergio Ramos and then a minute later drilled a sitter about 10 yards above the crossbar. Torres ultimately came off in the 70th minute for Juan Manuel Mata, which seems curious since Spain needs Torres to get going. However, Del Bosque should get some breathing room from his critics after a convincing win in which Spain finished with 22 shots on goal. Next comes Chile, a game that shapes up as Spain's most important since the Euro finals against Russia in 2008.
3. Spain still has work to do. Group H wraps up round-robin play Friday when Chile plays Spain and Switzerland goes against Honduras. Chile needs just a tie to advance to the knockout round. It's trickier for Spain given its 1-0 loss to Switzerland, but this has become the real Group of Death because it's possible a team with six points will be eliminated from the tournament. The top spot of Group H will likely face Portugal (which torched North Korea 7-0 on Monday) while the runner-up wins a date with Brazil. Here's the truth: Nothing will be easy for Spain from this point on.