Fernando could be in the air in Gdansk

After Vicente del Bosque’s failed experiment of fielding six midfielders rather than a recognised striker in his side’s Euro 2012 opener with Italy, it was with great personal satisfaction that Chelsea’s Fernando Torres finally started his tournament with a bang on Thursday.

The much-maligned forward found his swagger again, striking an impressive brace in Spain’s 4-0 victory over the hapless Republic of Ireland.

After a soul-destroying 18 months at Stamford Bridge that have yielded only 12 goals (only one more than the number of cards he’s accrued in the same time), the blonde assassin’s clinical, cool finishing was evident once more in Gdansk.

La Roja complete their Group C campaign this evening against Croatia and Torres leads bwin’s goalscoring markets with odds of 4/1 to net first.

With supply from the likes of Andres Iniesta, David Silva, Xavi and Xabi Alonso, that could be a very generous price, though a more sensible tip could be for Torres to score any time in a Spanish win, which is priced at 2/1.

Any new customers using their free £25 bet on this latter selection would collect £75 for such an outcome.

Torres is also 7/2 second-favourite behind Mario Gomez to finish as the tournament’s top scorer, but if Spain’s number nine doesn’t interest you, then why not look at Cesc Fabregas as an alternative.

The Barcelona midfielder has two goals to his name as well and after scoring his side’s vital equaliser in their opening duel with Italy, he will have been unhappy with having to settle for a place on the bench against the Irish.

That frustration was tangible with his venomous finish for Spain’s fourth against the Irish and the celebration that followed.

But with the former Arsenal idol again likely to be introduced in the closing stages, he is an interesting option at 5/1 to net the final goal of the game.

As for Croatia, they have a difficult task on their hands following their draw with Italy on Thursday.

They lie second in Group C on four points, with the knowledge that the combination of defeat against Spain and an Italy win over Ireland will see them join Giovanni Trapattoni’s men on the plane home.

The best form of defence could well be attack and with top scorer Mario Mandzukic struggling with a knock, they may well stick with the 4-2-3-1 system they switched to at half-time against the Italians, with Luka Modric more advanced.

With that in mind, a lot will depend on the form of lone striker Nikica Jelavic, Croatia’s attacking focal point, who himself has one goal so far in the tournament.

Much of Croatia’s game centres on getting crosses into the box – they often manage over 30 in a game – and with the big Everton striker’s unsettling qualities, he could be generous odds at 8/1 to score first or last, and 9/4 to net any time.

All four of Croatia’s goals in the tournament have been scored by strikers and he could be your best bet for the Vatreni.

Recommended bet: Torres to score and Spain to win @ 2/1
Outside punt: Fabregas to score the last goal @ 5/1
Long shot: Jelavic to score the first goal @ 8/1

Full Spain v Croatia betting preview

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