Two-Footed Tackle: Villa, Spain flying high
EURO 2008 COVERAGECheck Page 2 each weekday during Euro 2008 for a tournament diary by David Hirshey and Roger Bennett. Previous entries
June 6: Tourney preview
June 9: Rough weekend for Switzerland
June 10: Down goes Italy
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Thursday's live coverage
• Croatia vs. Germany,
11:50 a.m. ET
• Austria vs. Poland,
2:30 p.m. ET
Before the tournament began, Villa was best known as the Spanish striker who wasn't Fernando Torres. He scored 18 goals for his club, Valencia, in an injury-ravaged season, causing the team to hang a $32 million transfer fee around his neck. After Tuesday's dynamic performance, it's safe to say that all the major European clubs, especially those in England, will now be checking under the couch cushions for loose change.
Villa certainly got Roman Abramovich's attention. The Russian billionaire, national team patron and Chelsea owner didn't have to endure Russia's 4-1 humiliation next to his BFF Vladimir Putin (as was originally rumored), but he may have gotten Villa's cell phone number. Can't you just see him texting Villa after the game? "DV -- U rock! U want 2 b on Chel-c? :-D TTYL-RA."
After completing his hat trick, Villa could not contain himself. He ran straight to the bench, embracing his strike partner Fernando Torres and seeking his immediate counsel as to whether Chelsea, Arsenal or Liverpool would be the best fit for his speed and guile in the English Premier League.
Clive Brunskill/Getty Images
Awww, Torres and Villa's embrace makes you shed a tear, doesn't it?
Still, this was a day to marvel at Spain's free-flowing attack, orchestrated by the midfield troika of Xavi, Iniesta and Silva. Iniesta made the pass of the tournament so far, bisecting the Russian defense with a seeing-eye ball that Villa buried for his second goal.
Just when it looked like nothing could eclipse the Spaniard's masterful class in finishing, along came Swedish bad boy Zlatan Ibrahimovic later in the day. He produced a strike of such power and precision that it almost made up for the 67 minutes of coma-inducing "action" that preceded it. Greece, to no one's surprise, came in with the same soccer-phobic philosophy that saw them ambush the field at Euro 2004. It took a moment of inspiration from Ibrahimovic to even make the Greeks aware that the field extended beyond their own penalty area.
Vincenzo Pinto/AFP/Getty Images
David Villa is consulting absolutely everyone about his transfer opportunities.
But befitting someone who has compared himself to Muhammad Ali and boasted that only injury -- which caused him to miss almost a month of Inter Milan's season -- could stop him, Ibrahimovic struck when least expected, all but guaranteeing that he, too, will be juggling post-Euro offers along with his gum.
Czech Republic versus Portugal (11:50 ET, ESPN2) -- Peter Cech, the imposing 6'5" Czech and Chelsea goalkeeper, wears a water polo-like helmet to cushion his tender cranium, which was mistaken for a soccer ball by an opponent early in the EPL season. But what will protect him from Cristiano Ronaldo and his quicksilver teammates, who are sure to lay siege to his goal? Certainly not his rickety defense, which had trouble coping with the Swiss in the Czechs' fortunate 1-0 win over the lightly regarded co-hosts.
Torsten Silz/AFP/Getty Images
Scary headgear, scary!
Switzerland versus Turkey (2:30 ET, ESPN2) -- Based on their Euro track records -- the Swiss have won zero of their past seven games, while the Turks have won just one of eight -- this matchup has all the sex appeal of an Amy Winehouse centerfold. But international soccer is a game of history, and these teams have an ugly one.
The previous time these two met -- a game that is now known as the "Battle of Istanbul" -- the Turks went mental after the Swiss eliminated them from the 2006 World Cup qualifiers in front of their home crowd. As sports brawls go, it was a classic, with players, coaches, fans and even officials laying the smack down at the end of the game.
It made the Pistons-Pacers Malice at the Palace look like a Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling event.
Turkish midfielder Emre was fined heavily for his role in the melee, and he will certainly be a marked man today. At least he'll be on the field -- unlike Switzerland's all-time leading scorer, Alexander Frei, who hobbled out of the tournament after being injured in the opener against Croatia. The Swiss and Turks will be fighting for their Group A lives today. Let's just hope not literally.
Prediction: Turkey 1, Switzerland 0
David Hirshey is the executive editor of HarperCollins Publishers. He has been covering soccer for 30 years and played himself (almost convincingly) in the soccer documentary "Once In A Lifetime." Roger Bennett lives in New York, but is still scarred by this. Hirshey and Bennett are at work on the forthcoming "ESPN's Ultimate World Cup Guide." The two will be writing about Euro 2008 Monday through Friday on Page 2, unless their astrologer tells them not to.