Spain isn't going to let another impressive tournament debut allow it to get too far ahead of itself.
David Villa's hat trick led the Spanish to a 4-1 victory over Russia to confirm them as one of the European Championship favorites on Tuesday. But after another rout of an eastern European team - two years ago, it was a 4-0 win over Ukraine at the World Cup - Spain isn't setting hopes too high.
"We have to learn from mistakes like at the last World Cup when everyone thought that we were going to win the tournament because of our victory against Ukraine," Cesc Fabregas said. "We don't want to get too excited and just go game by game and that's how we will win."
Spain next faces Sweden, which beat defending champion Greece 2-0 on Tuesday, at Nivoli Teu stadium on Saturday with only one objective in mind.
"To win," left back Joan Capdevilla said. "We can't make the same mistakes. We can't think that we will all make it to the final, we need to take it step-by-step and reach our objectives first."
Spain led when Fernando Torres fed the streaking Villa for a right-footed goal in the 20th minute.Villa later slid Andres Iniesta's slick pass under goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev for his second in the 44th, and then completed his memorable Group D game after dribbling around Roman Shirokov in the 74th to slot past Akinfeev with his right foot.
"Three goals, a hat trick with the national team - it's started well. We're off to a good start. But there are still two games to go," said the 26-year-old Villa, who scored the first hat trick since Sergio Conceicao of Portugal and Patrick Kluivert of the Netherlands both accomplished the feat at Euro 2000.
Fabregas added the fourth with a header in injury time.
"Everyone knows about the importance of this. We'll take advantage of this momentum and boost going forward," said coach Luis Aragones, who has led Spain on a seven-game winning run as part of a 17-match unbeaten streak.
Roman Pavlyuchenko scored Russia's lone goal with a header in the 86th as Russia lost its opening game to Spain for the second straight European Championship.
Russia had its chances in a rainy, high-tempo first half with Igor Semshov shooting wide after being played into the area by Aleksandr Anyukuv in the 17th and Konstantin Zyryanov hit the near post after the Spanish defense failed to clear six minutes later.
"The lesson for us - for the Russian team, for Russian football - is that you are playing well and you create ... but you are caught a little bit much being naive then you get punished," coach Guus Hiddink said.
Villa showed no effects from the right thigh injury picked up a week ago as he took his international goal tally to 17 from 32 games - two more than Torres, who has played 50 internationals.
"When I think of Villa, it's a name that makes me think of scoring," Spain coach Luis Aragones said. "The Spanish team has the luck of having players that can score. It could be Villa today or Torres tomorrow."
But without Capdevila, the first two goals would not have been possible.
The Villarreal defender found Torres down the left with space. In a one-on-one situation with defender Denis Kolodin, the Liverpool striker worked around the Dynamo Moscow defender to feed Villa for a calmly struck goal.
Capdevila led the breakout on the second goal, too, finding Iniesta with a cross-field pass. Iniesta left Yuri Zhirkov flat-footed as the agile FC Barcelona player moved around him to feed Villa, who had slipped between two defenders and alone in front of Akinfeev for another crisp finish with his right foot.
Villa ran to the bench after scoring his third goal with another impressive individual move to hug Torres, who came off for Fabregas in the 54th.
"He had a very important game and he is a key player to us so I wanted to dedicate that third one to him," Villa said.
Russia faces defending champion Greece and Sweden to avoid dropping out after the group stage for the fourth straight time. Hiddink has never failed to lead his teams out of the group phase at four prior major championships.
"The first goal we are playing well ... and then we make stupid errors and we got caught on the counterattack," Hiddink said. "The second goal - just one minute to go before halftime - then it's a lack of experience."
Fabregas scored his first goal in 27 appearances after heading Xavi Hernandez's blocked volley. It was Spain's biggest win in the tournament since a 4-3 victory over Yugoslavia in 2000.
"We are a group that is, day-to-day, getting better with a goal to see if we can get all the way to the end," Aragones said. "For today, I am happy."
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