Is it just me, or does Fernando Torres look better in red than he does in blue?
Chances are, El Niño himself would think so. His first foray in warmer hues for Spain at Euro 2012 didn't go so swimmingly, as the 28-year-old striker botched a trio of scoring opportunities after coming on as a 75th-minute substitution during what turned out to be a 1-1 draw with Italy in the Group C opener.
He looked much more comfortable, though, in a starting role on Thursday in a 4-0 win for the Furia Roja, albeit against a hopelessly overmatched Ireland squad.
Not that the caliber of opponent can or should necessarily devalue the fact that Torres put forth arguably his finest performance on the pitch in a year-and-a-half.
Granted, Torres didn't suddenly or miraculously rediscover the same speed that made him so dynamic with Atletico Madrid and Liverpool, not to mention the Spanish national team. But he did play with a level of confidence that had seemingly escaped him while in a Chelsea shirt, even as the Blues bore their way through the FA Cup and the UEFA Champions League.
Despite struggling through crippling bouts of self-doubt and failing to find solid footing amidst a coaching carousel at Stamford Bridge, Torres managed to chip in 11 goals and 16 assists for the Blues, at times showing flashes of the Fernando of old.
But never for quite as long as he did against the Irish. He finished off a beautiful run by David Silva with a cracker of a goal in the fourth minute and hooked up again with Silva in the 70th minute to put Spain up 3-0. In between, Torres did a terrific job of linking on the attack and pressing on defense.
Of course, there's no telling whether this was just a flash in the pan, whether Torres will be able to parlay his latest success into something more against a much more formidable opponent in Croatia.
Or whether he can capture lightning in a bottle and bring it back with him to England, where he'll once again be fighting for time at striker with Chelsea.
In the meantime, at least Torres can take comfort in knowing that he's still capable of being a productive force on the pitch for the best international squad in the world.
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