Spain, the eternal bottlers, have as usual begun the tournament strong—yet this time there is no South Korea, host Portugal, or Zidane-inspired France to foil them. Can they finally go all the way?
Despite their path to glory seeming slightly easier than normal, remember they have had "easy runs" before.
A World Cup 2002 path with only Ireland, Korea, and Germany; a Euro 2004 group with Portugal and Greece; a World Cup draw against aging France.
Yes, Spain have definitely been here before.
Yet the surge of optimism from the country comes from many factors—the route they have to glory, the form of the players, and the quality of their opening victory.
4-1 is a great score in any match, let alone your first Euro 2008 game. Spain were good, not great—yet if a team not on its peak can win that well, then it's happy days!
Russia were poor, not worthy of being opposition for anyone here except Austria. This simply highlights the magnitude of England's failure to qualify. It wouldn't surprise me if Russia went home with a zero scorecard.
The standard of players has never been in doubt. Spain have called upon many great players, but it is the scintillating form of key players that has everyone talking about them as potential winners.
Torres has come in off a great season at Liverpool, Ramos and Casillas at Real Madrid, Fabregas at Arsenal, Villa at Valencia.
Add in the undoubted quality of Xavi, Iniesta, Puyol, and Silva, and it's a formidable line-up indeed.
The strength and depth is so good, confident coach Aragones left national icon Raul at home.
The coach is not the most impressive—he attempted to spur Reyes on by racially abusing his then-teammate Henry. Not a clever tactic.
If this team is to overthrow its mentality and tag of eternal botchers, then they must forget this victory—the only thing remembered should be to give Villa the ball. Sweden and Greece are defensively sound—they won't lose 4-1.
If a challenge strikes this Spanish side, it must stay strong and rally around each other. In Korea six years ago, they had given up before the shootout; they underestimated Greece four years ago; and they simply didn't show for the French match.
They and I can talk all day about an easy passage to glory, but at the end of the day they must perform in each match. If they can, glory will come via the boots of Torres and Villa.
But for now let the Spanish enjoy their victory, celebrate with caution and sing "Viva la Villa."
What Do You Think? Will Spain Bottle It..........Again!