Euro Moments: David a goliath against Russia
Villa hat-trick gives Spain the perfect start as they set about claiming the Euro 2008 title
David Villa scored a stunning hat-trick as Spain’s Euro 2012 campaign got off to a flyer against Russia. Photograph: Getty
Euro 2008: Spain 4 Russia 1
June 10th, 2008
Spain came into the 2008 tournament as favourites to lift the trophy thanks to an attacking line-up that appeared to be blossoming at the perfect time.
Xavi, Andres Iniesta, Fernando Torres and David Villa (with Cesc Fabregas and Santi Cazorla sitting on the bench) looked to be a terrifying prospect for any opponent and they proved so in the opening game of Group D.
Coming up against what looked to be quite a strong Russia team, Spain would rip through their defence, thanks mainly to one of the best strikers in the world at the time.
Step forward David Villa.
Eight years ago, at the age of 26, the Spaniard was one of the most highly sought after players in the world. In the summer of 2008 Chelsea were the chief pursuers of the Valencia striker and his performance in the opening game of Group D went a long way to adding to his price tag.
As an Austrian thunderstorm raged overhead, Villa made full use of the world class service provided to him to net a hat-trick and give Spain a 4-1 win.
After 20 minutes Fernando Torres dispossessed Russian defender Denis Kolodin before bearing down on Igor Akinfeev. As the goalkeeper advanced Torres casually flicked the ball with his right foot to Villa who prodded into an empty net.
And 20 minutes later, right on the stroke of half time it would be two. As a Russian attack was snuffed out on the edge of the Spanish box, Silva and Iniesta surgeed forward in a manner that would be seen again a number of times throughout the tournament.
Silva found the Barcelona attacker loitering between the Russian defence and midfield. Controlling the pass Iniesta squared to the onrushing Villa who hammered home a low, first-time shot through the legs of Akinfeev.
Torres was taken off in the second half but it’s hard to argue that Villa’s service was depleted as he was only replaced by Cesc Fabregas.
And it was the Arsenal midfielder who would provide the assist for his future Barcelona team mate’s hat-trick.
A perfectly weighted, typical Fabregas through ball found Villa who jinked left and then right, turning Roman Shirokov inside out before fizzing a shot past the hapless Akinfeev.
It was the perfect start for Spain. Villa would take all the plaudits but the game should really be remembered as the beginning of an incredible Spanish legacy that would last four years, taking in two European Championships and a World Cup along the way.