Spain in the World Cup are, to put it mildly, an enigma. They always qualify, usually with one of the most impressive records, but in the finals inevitably fail to fulfil their potential. Spanish fans can only watch and hope that this time it will be different.
Ukraine, though always one of the strongest footballing fragments of the USSR, are here at the finals for the first time. It starts badly for them. On 13 minutes Xabi Alonso heads in from a corner, and 4 minutes later David Villa puts in a free kick, deflected past the keeper off a Ukrainian defender.
There is little sign of a comeback as Ukraine struggle to win the ball from a lively Spanish side. They make two substitutions at half time, but there is no opportunity to see the effect of the tactic. The first action of the half sees the referee deciding, for no apparent reason, to send off Vladislav Vashchuk and award Spain a penalty, which Villa duly tucks away for 3-0.
There is no way back and the rest of the match is little more than a training game for Spain. Ukraine seem resigned to defeat and allow Fernando Torres to score another. In the dying minute Andriy Voronin spurns a gilt-ended change after Iker Casillas runs recklessly out of his goal.
In Spain opinion will be divided between those who think this might be the year, and those who wonder when it will fall apart. For now the Spanish look good but are flattered by this scoreline, with Ukraine unable to demonstrate their true quality.