It is a testament to Fernando Torres's character that, despite another stinker against Paraguay on Saturday night, he braved the mixed-zone scrum to patiently answer yet more questions about his lack of form during this World Cup. But for all his insistence that his game is coming together, Spain again looked more cohesive when he retreated to the bench.
One of the more telling statistics from Spain's grimy win concerned shots at goal. With Torres, they mustered four attempts in 56 minutes; without him there were 11 in the 34 minutes that followed, including David Villa's late winner.
"David has been very important for us, the key for Spain," Torres said afterwards. "He is scoring important goals, he gives us the opportunity to keep looking forward thinking we can go all the way. It has been his World Cup."
The same, alas, cannot be said for Torres, whose sub-prime performances are clearly causing him anguish. "It is a difficult tournament for me because my fitness is not the best," he said. "I am feeling better but I still have to improve, obviously. I didn't arrive in the best moment, especially in terms of fitness especially after two surgeries, but I have to accept my role in this tournament."
Those words were spoken with fluency that has so far eluded him on the pitch, but he must have noticed how much more telepathically attuned Spain were with Villa in the centre and Andrés Iniesta, Xavi and Cesc Fábregas creating lovingly crafted triangles behind him.
The Spain coach, Vicente Del Bosque, remains supportive, although last night admitted that Torres was not untouchable saying: "He remains a reference for us. To be on a [scoreless] streak or not, he offers hard work and personality and he'll be our striker. Saying that doesn't mean he's an untouchable starter, but we have full confidence in him."
When Torres was pressed about his club future, he admitted he was "happy" with Roy Hodgson's appointment as Liverpool manager but said he had not yet spoken to him "because I have a very important week ahead of me", with the semi-final on Wednesday against Germany – a side he rates very highly – fast approaching. "I think the German people weren't expecting them to play as well as they have but I was sure they would be there or thereabouts,, They are always in the final or semi-final, they are a very good team." he said.
It was Torres who bundled home Spain's winner in the 1-0 win over Germany in the Euro 2008 final, but he expects a more open game this time round. "We are a very offensive team and they are maybe the most exciting team at this World Cup. They have scored four goals in the last 16 and four in the quarter-finals so they are very dangerous. But we will still have our chances – they will try to win, they will try to attack, and we can have more space."
His view was shared by the Spain centre-half Gerard Piqué, who warned: "Germany are a very strong team, with a lot of quality so it will be hard to stop them. When you're in the semi-finals there are no favourites. Maybe because they won 4-0 against Argentina and 4-1 against England they are in a good mood, but we will see."
And while Spain have spluttered into the last four, Torres insists their squad have no worries about failing to hit their highest notes so far. "Our belief is very high now. This team has never had any doubts about ourselves. We always think we can keep going and win the World Cup but we will take it step by step and with humility."
Sentiments that some teams, long since departed, would have perhaps done well to emulate.
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