He may be 69 years old, have the international football coach's general tendency to slight irascibility and be ultra-demanding, but it is deeply refreshing and stimulating to be in the presence of Luis Aragonés. He still has the bullish torso which muscled him through crowded midfields so he could unleash his cannonball shots at Club Atlético de Madrid, he is driven by an urgent hunger to win and he speaks his mind.
Spain score four; he wants more goals. Fernando Torres gets a little upset by being substituted and Aragonés says: "Deal with it." If you gave him the choice between a winning lottery ticket and lifting the Henri Delaunay trophy in Vienna on 29 June then you just know for sure that somebody else would become a millionaire and the Spaniard's fingerprints would be on the silverware. "My only desire is to win as many matches for Spain as possible and because my life view is that the glass is always half full, not half empty, I neither get carried away with victory nor does defeat destroy me," he explained. "Every one of my four losses as national coach is a thorn in my side, particularly one of them [the 2006 FIFA World Cup defeat against France]. Defeat lingers in my heart, it bounces around my brain. If I've a message for Spain's magnificent fans it is that this group of players is here to win the tournament at all costs."
Aragonés therefore has elastic patience with his powerful striker chafing a little against being substituted in the 54th minute of the 4-1 win against Russia in which David Villa scored a hat-trick. "I understand if Fernando's a little ticked off with me because this happened to me as a player and I know how I felt," he said. "But my thinking is that every footballer who comes off early is irritated with himself more than anything else. That's how I always reacted." So much of the spotlight has been on Villa and Torres since the Russia victory that perhaps too little credit has gone to the coach. His late choice of Marcos Senna in midfield worked, his belief in the central defence of Carles Puyol and Carlos Marchena was repaid and his substitutions paid off. Cesc Fàbregas produced an assist and a goal while Santi Cazorla swiftly adapted to tournament football on his third international appearance.
"Sometimes you have to play on the counterattack and sometimes you have to press high up the pitch and just 'go' for a game," explained Aragonés, referring to the blistering pace with which Cazorla stretched the game when he replaced Andrés Iniesta. "We rode our luck a little in the first 20 minutes but I was happy with our five men in midfield in the second half and we were more secure when I adjusted Sergio Ramos's zonal play. Now we face a really worrying rival in Sweden. We know them and they know us. They have two great forwards and are a tough nut to crack. I'm looking forward to the test." Sweden be warned.
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