Europe is ready to rescue Spain, now Spain are ready to conquer Europe. Football and the economy lie at different ends of the Spanish spectrum; this was a day of contrasts for the country. On the one side, there is uncertainty and instability, fear. On the other, there is the opposite. Captain Iker Casillas described football as an "escape" from the crisis. But that would not, he insisted, mean loading more pressure onto the team's shoulders. He also moved swiftly to distance himself from a prevailing mood in which, as he put it, "it seems like everybody has already written our names down as champions."
For the Spanish, there appeared little pressure in Poland. Asked if he knew what his team was for tomorrow, the coach Vicente del Bosque replied simply with a smile: "sí, sí, thank you." What he wasn't going to do was reveal it: guessing 10 men will not be difficult, guessing the eleventh will. Fernando Torres and Álvaro Negredo are the two candidates for the centre-forward role. "We are very clear," Del Bosque said. "We are ready and prepared. But I have not told the players and I will not do so until before the game tomorrow. They are both ready. We have prepared the game well and they are both more than capable for tomorrow."
The message being projected here was that Spain's footballing problems are behind them. Del Bosque insisted that his players do not look like they have just finished a long, hard season; Andres Iniesta is in better shape than ever before going into a tournament; and as Casillas put it, 12 months ago the battle between Real Madrid and Barcelona might have derailed the selección, but not any more.
There have been suggestions that the president of the Spanish government Mariano Rajoy would be here for the match tomorrow against Italy. With Spain in the midst of negotiations over an EU bail out, Casillas was not so convinced. "I don't know if he will come," he said. "I don't think so. We have been lucky enough to experience two tournaments of resounding success and that has been a means of escape during the crisis. Does that bring greater pressure? I don't think so. I don't think we will be loading that extra responsibility onto our shoulders. What we want to do is perform well and what we can promise is commitment."
Casillas also argued that the confrontation between Real Madrid and Barcelona was an issue that has now been resolved. He and Xavi Hernandez spoke on the phone to clear the air back in the spring. He said: "If it had been last year, 2011, it might have been a bit problematic. Not because we got on badly but because the interests were different and we were fighting it out for [every trophy] At the time there was tension for both sides, it is true. Now both sets of players treat it as a laugh. It's forgotten. When someone makes a mistake you look on the bright side. Both sets of players have acted magnificently and the focus now is on the national team."
There was good news from Iniesta too. At both the World Cup and the European Championship I came into the tournament with physical problems and that's not the case this time. The one thing that really matters is to be in good shape, to train well, feel right. And now I feel in optimum condition."
"Andres is in stupendous shape, looking sharp and happy - like practically all the players," Del Bosque added. "Let's hope that in these six games that we hope to have before us he can be decisive as always."
Italy manager Cesare Prandelli also suggested that he is clear in his team-selection. Although he said that there could be a surprise, it appears likely that he will employ De Rossi in a deep lying role as an additional centre-back.
"De Rossi is totally convinced about his ability to play centre back," Prandelli said. "He has played centre back for Roma and if he had to play in this position he won't simply be a defender but a defensive midfielder. We want to use him in this position because during the match we could make tactical changes. We want to keep Spain away from our penalty area. If they get there they'll create difficulties."
The Italy coach also praised striker Mario Balotelli "As far as the management of Balo is concerned, it's always difficult for 20 year old guys especially those who want to show their value," Prandelli said. "But he has behaved in a really professional way in the last few weeks. Mario has to be aware that he's very important to the team."