Ireland are the first team to be eliminated at Euro 2012 after Spain hammered Giovanni Trapattoni’s side, 4-0, in Gdansk.
Fernando Torres grabbed a well-deserved brace for the rampant Spaniards, while Cesc Fabregas and David Silva, with a sublime goal, finished out the rout.
After the game, Fernando Torres was jubilant and said, “you have to enjoy every moment. Today I had the luck to start the match, and score goals and enjoy it with the team, so we have to continue to enjoy with the team, and hopefully make it into the final. We saw the normal Spanish team again.”
If that was the normal Spain, I’d hate to see the devastating Spain, because the difference between the two sides was vast, and there was never a doubt of the result. Such was the gulf.
With both teams having started well, it took a little bit of brilliance from Fernando Torres to open the scoring. The Chelsea striker had raced onto a loose ball following a great last-ditch tackle by Richard Dunne on Andres Iniesta, and lashed the ball high into the net over a stunned-looking Shay Given to give his team the lead.
And from there, Spain dominated possession as everyone knew they would. However, for all their possession, some 63 percent by the half-hour mark, they never tested Given once.
Ireland’s fans continued to sing and chant and to cheer and cajole their team along, and you could almost feel the frustration growing in the Spanish camp, as their Apollo Creed-type performance could not find the telling blow to put the Rocky Irish out.
The danger for Spain was that they were being wasteful in possession and had created far fewer chances than they really should have.
All those Spanish fears were put to rest just minutes into the second half when David Silva scored the second goal of the night after a delightful and patient piece of skill when he controlled the ball following another dreadful mistake by Given and passed the ball into the corner with childlike ease.
The goal was particularly interesting and important because it literally ended the game as a contest and that it was the fourth goal in just two games that Ireland conceded a goal immediately after a restart. The goal was also the third goal caused by poor goalkeeping by Shay Given.
The Donegalman has always been a rock at the heart of the Irish team, but in what may be his final major tournament, he has been extremely poor.
With the game all but over, Spain continued to knock the ball around like a training game and Ireland was reduced to chasing shadows.
In the Champions League this year, Barcelona played Chelsea, and the possession statics were uncannily similar. However, every time the Blues attacked Barca’s defence, you had a feeling they could score.
It was the complete opposite with Ireland though as they really offered absolutely nothing going forward and did not threaten Iker Casillas once all night.
Spain’s third was only a matter of time in coming and was duly dispatched by Fernando Torres after he raced onto a through ball that had split the Irish defence like the Red Sea.
The fourth followed swiftly after. The Irish defence fell asleep as Spain took a quick corner and Cesc Fabregas lashed the ball home from close range to really put the icing on the cake.
From a Spanish point of view, that particular goal could have huge significance because Ireland have rapidly become the whipping boys in Group C, and goal difference could become a major factor after the final round of games next week.
It says much about the high standards that we hold this current Spanish team in because Ireland were not disgraced despite the performance and scoreline.
Straight after the match, Irish midfielder Keith Andrews could do little but heap praise on the victors. “They’re the best team I’ve ever faced without a shadow of a doubt. At times, well for the vast majority, we were chasing shadows and never got near them.
“They’re a fantastic side but it’s so disappointing. We tried to learn from our mistakes about conceding early against Croatia, but we shot ourselves in the foot again. They were silly goals. We didn’t learn. But in fairness they’re a top side – one lapse of concentration and they’re going to punish you.”
Andrews is right; Spain are one of the great, if not the greatest, international team of all-time. There was never a question of Ireland winning, or even getting a point out of this game. Most Irish players have never played against a team of this standard, and it speaks volumes that not one Irish player would get into Vicente Del Bosque’s squad.
Ireland become the first team to be eliminated from Euro 2012, and while their fans provided the best soundtrack of the competition and never stopped singing, despite the results, Spain led them on a merry Gdansk.