Brushed Aside

We had very high hopes for this match, didn’t we? When pressed, this was going to be the classic of the two matches. The match that would repeated in slow motion with a light opera and indie rock soundtrack. As it turned out, though, Russia vs Spain was a comparatively one-sided match, won convincingly by Spain against a Russian team that really failed to turn up at all. Andrei Arshavin, who had given indications that he was starting to believe the hype with his somewhat ridiculous claims that he had always been a Barcelona fan, was the most notable absence on the night, with this performance (or lack thereof) raising questions about his ability when under the spotlight, regardless of how sensationally he transformed the Russia team when he returned from suspension. Meanwhile, in a display of an ill wind blowing someone quite a lot of good, it was the enforced replacement of David Villa with Cesc Fabregas that really transformed Spain. Fabregas has looked very impressive every time he has made one of his cameo appearances for Spain, and the likelihood now has to be that he will start the final. Things might, however, have been different. After a cagey start that saw a couple of comfortable saves from Akinfeev and a couple of long shots from Russia, Pavlyuchenko fired a shot from the edge of the penalty...

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