When a very good team plays very well, there is often little anybody else can do to get in their way.
Sir Alex Ferguson famously remarked that “we’ve never been given a hiding like that” after Manchester United’s chastening defeat at the hands of Barcelona in the 2011 Champions League final and many of those sentiments would have been echoed by everyone on the end of Ireland’s mauling at the hands of the majestic Spanish on Thursday night.
After an indifferent opening to the campaign against Italy, la Roja emphatically moved through the gears to deliver arguably the performance of Euro 2012 so far, racking up passes and chances with wilful disdain for an Irish outfit found to be completely out of their depth.
Tougher tasks lie in wait for a side hoping to become the first international team to win three major tournaments in a row, but if Spain can find their rhythm, range of passing and ruthlessness, then whoever has the misfortune to cross their path will be consigned as footnotes in the coronation of arguably the greatest national team the game has ever produced.
With Fernando Torres finding form, Vicente del Bosque’s men now have the spearhead to their attack which the tiki-taka needs to fully prosper and it gives Spain yet another dangerous dimension to hurt their opponents with.
And if the pillaging of Ireland wasn’t ominous enough, a glimpse at the Spanish bench only further highlights the unprecedented levels of talent this nation have at their disposal.
None of Santi Cazorla, Pedro, Juan Mata, Alvaro Negredo or Fernando Llorente have needed to break sweat so far but all would arguably walk into virtually every other team in the tournament – Germany aside.
Immediately after the regal humbling of Ireland, Spain were installed as bwin’s 12/5 outright favourites to win Euro 2012, a fraction shorter than the 51/20 offered on the Germans, who in their own right have been impressive.
The pair were bwin’s ante-post joint favourites at 14/5 but have been pulled in a couple of points on the strength of their showings and the failings of the other contenders and pretenders.
With Holland embroiled in a civil war and England chronically short of quality, it will be left to either France or Italy to stop the gruesome twosome. But I, for one, cannot see any other outcome than a replay of the Euro 2008 final in Vienna.
As it stands at present, both Spain and Germany will top their respective groups, meaning they will line-up for the knock-out stages on opposite sides of the draw and can only meet in a mouth-watering finale at Kiev’s Olympic Stadium on July 1st.
Spain are only 5/4 to reach the final and just 3/5 to not get there, while Germany are an even shorter 4/5 to be there and 19/20 to not.
At the beginning of the tournament that dream date was 6/1 with bwin but has now been hauled in to 5/2 – a price that still represents fantastic value given the quality of these two and the questions regarding the rest.
If you do reckon Spain can go the distance, then why not double that up with two-goal Torres to be the tournament’s top-scorer? El Nino is now 9/2 to lead the charts.
Otherwise, if you don’t share my optimism for another Spanish hoisting of silverware, you can back against them at 9/1 to go out in the group, 17/5 to be evicted in the quarters and 3/1 to fall short in either the semis or the final.
Recommended bets: Spain v Germany Euro 2012 final @ 5/2
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