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SerieAWeekly On June - 16 - 2012

Euro 2012 Match Report: Spain Too Strong for Ireland

SerieAWeekly welcomes LaLigaWeekly guest writer Simon “SirHeppe” to our pages.

Defending European Champions Spain proved too much to handle for Ireland on Thursday night as Del Bosque’s men registered their first victory of Euro 2012. Spain now have one foot in the quarter finals and will look to secure top spot when they face Croatia on Monday night in Gdansk.

Both teams went into Thursday’s match knowing that only a win would be good enough. After losing 3-1 to Croatia in their opening game, Ireland knew that anything less than three points would mean the end of the road in Poland and Ukraine after only two games. Spain too were desperate for victory after an opening day draw against Italy which left many onlookers wondering how the world number ones would approach the rest of the tournament. More precisely, would they actually start their next match with a recognised forward on the pitch? That question was soon answered.

Del Bosque replaced Cesc Fabregas with Fernando Torres in the only change to Spain’s starting eleven from that which drew with Italy. And within minutes that proved to be a good call. Torres took advantage of some truly awful Irish defending and smashed a shot over the head of Shay Given and into the Irish net and set the tone for the rest of night. From there, the match became little more than a training session. Torres, Iniesta and Xavi all passed up chances in the first half but it did not prove costly. This was an Ireland team high on effort but low on quality. At times it was embarrassing to watch Spain dominate their less opponents in such a dismissive manner.

Half time came and went and the stats read very unpleasant reading for the men in green. Xavi and Xabi Alonso alone had racked up more passes than the whole Irish team in the opening 45 minutes. Later that night Irish papers would lead with the headline “Murder on the Gdansk floor!”. In truth that wasn’t far off.

Just like the first half, the second started with an early Spain goal. David Silva doing his best to nutmeg the entire Irish team in one shot as the ball was placed passed the despairing dive of Given. If the game needed killing then that did it, what followed was just icing on the cake. Torres added his second of the game with a well placed chip over Given but was unable to complete his hattrick as Del Bosque subbed the much maligned number nine and replaced him with Cesc Fabregas. And it was Fabregas who added a clever fourth goal due to some quick thinking from a corner and a shot hit so powerfully it was past heartbroken Irishman in goals before he had a chance to even react.

Spain passed up (sometimes literally) many other good goal scoring chances throughout the match but it mattered little. Their dominance sent a message out to others in the tournament. Yes Ireland were poor and they will face fat tougher games as the tournament progresses but the manner and style of the victory has reminded everyone just what a great side this Spain team are. Maybe they’re not as hungry as they were four years ago but the quality remains. In Xavi and Iniesta they have the two finest midfielders in the world and with Silva, Mata, Fabregas, Torres, Llorente and others in the squad too, their strength in depth is like no other.

Spain face Croatia in their final match on Monday night and will look to secure top spot in the group. Perhaps Del Bosque will be tempted to try some new players from the start and keep competition for places high within the squad. But logic suggests he won’t. Instead he is likely to give Torres another chance to shine up front and see if he can score against a team without Richard Dunne at the heart of the defence. Ireland may be heading home, but Spain have only just started in this European Championships.

you can follow Simon on twitter @SirHeppe

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