Spain looks to control infighting

MORRIS DALLA COSTA

, Last Updated: 7:56 AM ET

ZURICH -- The biggest question that was asked before the Euro 2008 tournament began was why Spain, with one of the most talented teams in the world, can't win.

Spain began its run for the 2008 Euro title with a 4-1 dismantling of Russia on Tuesday.

Even such an outstanding win was greeted with restraint. Will Spain blow up and explode as it has so many other times in major soccer tournaments?

Is the internal and not-so internal bickering, individual incompatibility and emotional baggage this team carries around going to do it in again?

One would think that after winning in a fashion that made most people sit up and take notice, it would be all fuzzy-wuzzy in the Spanish camp.

Welcome to the world of soccer where every gesture, word, action can be interpreted five different ways and usually is.

Spain is getting ready to play Sweden in an important second game in Group D today in Innsbruck.

With most of the soccer world still marvelling at David Villa's three-goal performance against Russia, the speculation mill continues churning. Is he angry at him, is he not angry at him?

The Spanish media has been pounding this story into scallopini since the Russia game.

Spanish coach coach Luis Aragones, substituted striker Fernando Torres early in the second half with Spain in charge 2-0.

Torres was an essential part of Spain's first-half success. Known for his striking ability, Torres played the part of the unselfish brother constantly working the ball to Villa.

He was clearly unhappy when he came off the field. He walked by Aragones' outstretched hand and threw his tracksuit to the ground, thumping down on the bench.

When Villa scored his third goal, he rushed to the bench, running through his teammates to hug Torres. He got his finger caught in Torres' jersey, breaking the finger.

"It won't affect his play though.

What may affect Spain's play is the re-emergence of this supposedly thermal atmosphere.

Whether the story has legs or not really doesn't matter. The media is making it spider-like.

Aragones defended his decision, saying he took Torres off to rest him because of the long season Torres had.

It wasn't the wrong decision to make.

It took a day but Torres said he has no issues with Aragones.

"There is no problem. I have spoken to the coach and know it was just another change. I have no problems with him," Torres told a Spanish newspaper. "It seems a shame that so much importance is placed on this when Spain won 4-1." But it's always the little things that get blown out of proportion.

In order for a team to win this kind of tournament, the little things need to be done the right way so there are no distractions.

Perhaps Torres shouldn't have acted petulantly when he came off, even though it was understandable why he was upset.

Perhaps Aragones should not have removed him from the game until later or maybe he should have explained the situation to Torres at the half.

Maybe all of this means nothing ... or everything. Suffice to say, Spain would have been better off without having to deal with this.

This is an outstanding Spanish team. But today's game against the Swedes will show us a great deal, including whether they've developed the mental toughness needed to overcome the mistakes.

Or will they melt down again?


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