Ireland are heading home from Euro 2012 after a 4-0 defeat at the hands of Spain in a Group C encounter in Gdansk on Thursday night.
Fernando Torres, omitted from the starting line-up in the first match, scored a brace and David Silva and Cesc Fabregas each bagged a goal in a match that saw total Spanish domination from start to finish.
Each side had made just one change from their previous Group C match, with Torres and Simon Cox being introduced to the action in place of Fabregas and Kevin Doyle, and it was the two strikers who made an immediate impression at the start of the match.
Cox tested the gloves of Iker Casillas in the first minute of the game with a well-struck shot from the edge of the area that was competently saved by the Spain captain.
Torres did one better and gave the reigning European Championship holders the lead just four minutes into the match, providing the nightmare start the Irish had feared.
The Chelsea man pounced on some uncertain defending on the edge of the box from Richard Dunne to smash a vicious strike past Shay Given from the right-hand side of the goal, giving Spain an early lead.
With Vicente del Bosque’s side camped outside the Irish box for the majority of the first 45 minutes, Given was forced into making a couple of decent saves from long-range shots, but the Aston Villa goalkeeper remained solid to deny strikes from Xavi, Gerard Pique and Andres Iniesta from outside the area.
Spain went through the first half in total domination of possession, with Xabi Alonso and Xavi controlling the match in central areas. However, the comfortable nature of their play somewhat lacked a cut-throat mentality, which kept the difference between the sides at just one goal heading into the break.
Del Bosque’s half-time team talk seemed to induce confidence in the world champions, as they managed to double their lead just four minutes into the second period when the Irish shot themselves in the foot again with some sloppy defending.
Silva latched on to a poor Given punch inside the penalty area and coolly passed the ball through the legs of Dunne into the corner, giving Giovanni Trapattoni’s men a mountain to climb.
Midway through the second half Ireland began to look more of a threat, with substitute Jon Walters providing a decent physical presence in the box. However, as they pushed forward in an attempt to claw a goal back, Spain looked dangerous on the counterattack, which ultimately led to their third goal of the match.
Silva pounced on a lackadaisical touch from Aiden McGeady inside the centre circle and slipped a pass through the middle for Torres, who confidently strutted forward and curled a shot into the right corner.
Fabregas heaped on the misery for Ireland in the 82nd minute after drifting into the area from the right and unleashing a thunderous strike off the corner past Given.
Spain now head into the last match on Sunday against Croatia in pole position to qualify from Group C as group winners. Republic of Ireland take on Italy as Trapattoni’s men aim to generate some pride in their last match of Euro 2012.
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