Spain flex their muscles as Torres Torments the Irish

June 21, 2012 12:00 pm

If there was anyone voicing doubts over Spain’s ability to retain their title as European Champions after La Roja stuttered to a one all draw with Italy, they were silenced in overwhelming fashion on Thursday night. Spain skillfully brushed the Irish aside to record a result which leaves them with one foot in the quarter-finals and ends what has been a devastating campaign for Giovanni Trapattoni’s men.

The odds were heavily stacked against the Republic of Ireland in what proved to be a hugely demoralising night when they once again conceded early as a revitalised Fernando Torres pounced on a loose ball in the Irish penalty area to open the scoring. Silva was rewarded for a fine creative display with a goal on 49 minutes before Torres claimed his second with an accomplished finish. Cesc Fabregas smashed in Spain’s fourth when Ireland switched off at a corner as a reminder to Vincente Del Bosque of what he can do on the field. The score could have been more one-sided if Shay Given had not pulled off what must be a strong contender for save of the tournament against Xavi.

The fact that Spain recorded 704 more passes than Ireland is perhaps a more accurate reflection of Spain’s dominance than the 4-0 score-line that, in the end, somewhat flattered the Irish. Ireland were starved of possession for the vast majority of the game by Spain’s mesmerizing midfield maestros. The Spanish team is built around the Barcelona duo of Andres Inesta and Xavi Hernandez who seem to have an almost telepathic footballing connection, leading Spain to dominate teams in the same way that Barcelona does in the Champions League. Even though the Spanish midfield passed the Irish to death, the undoubted star of the show was their number 9. If Fernando Torres’ goal against Barcelona in the semi-finals of the Champions League marked his return to form for his club, then this was the performance that marks his return to form for his country. His early goal sparked a more clinical display from the Spanish, and the way he took his second goal was reminiscent of the player that scored the winning goal in the 2008 final. Everything seems to be fitting into place nicely for the reigning World Champions, though they will undoubtedly face much sterner competition in the knockout rounds. Still, it would take a very brave man to bet against them making it three major tournament wins in a row.

Ireland are now left to reflect on their inability to provide the strong defensive foundation that defined their impressive run at the 2002 World Cup. They have now conceded early goals in each half against both Croatia and Spain. The final word, however, was not provided by Ireland’s shortcomings, nor in fact by Spain’s attacking brilliance, but by the Irish fans. With Ireland losing 4-0 and just minutes left on the clock, a spine-tingling rendition of ‘The Fields of Athenry’ rang round the stadium to ensure that their fans left their mark on the tournament even though the team could not.

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