Spain prodiced arguably the finest performance of these European Championships so far as they cruised to an emphatic 4-0 victory over Ireland. A second defeat for Giovanni Trapattoni's side mean they can now begin packing their bags with no chance of progressing.

As they were against Croatia, Ireland were undone by the concession of a goal in the opening five minutes of both periods, this time through fine strikes from Fernando Torres and David Silva. Torres later grabbed an equally assured second, before Cesc Fabregas put some extra shine on the score line late on.

Electing to begin with a recognized striker in the form of the previously goal-shy Torres up front, Spain were imperious and on this form will take some beating to dethrone as champions of Europe.

The opening minutes of proceedings belied what was to follow, though, as Ireland began the brighter and Simon Cox, in the side in place of Kevin Doyle, tested Iker Casillas with a good long-range effort.

But for the second game running, Ireland was undone by an early goal resulting from some less than proficient defending.

Richard Dunne made a fine saving challenge to deny David Silva's run on goal, but the center-back and those around him were slow to react to complete the clearance allowing Fernando Torres to nip in. In the blink of an eye the beleaguered striker breezed past Stephen Ward before thumping a shot through the arms of Given at his near post and into the roof of the net.

It was a strike of the highest quality that showed the pace and instinct of the Torres that helped Spain to victory in this competition four years ago.

From then on it was all Spain as the pre-tournament favorites displayed the quick interchange of passes and positions with which they have become synonymous.

Torres could and probably should have had a second just three minutes after opening the scoring. A ball into the far post was nodded down by Alvaro Arbeloa, but on the volley Torres drilled the ball wide of the post.

It was almost incessant pressure from Spain as their full-backs spread the play and Xavi dictated events from the middle.

Spain created another opportunity when Jordi Alba burst down to the left of the area to find space for a chipped ball back to find David Silva, but the Manchester City star's header was deflected over the bar.

To their credit, Ireland was doing well merely to survive. They kept the deficit at one despite another onslaught toward the end of the half as first Arbeloa had a shot saved by Given before Richard Dunne was forced into a vital block to deny Xavi's follow up.

Ireland continued to invite pressure, though, as they failed to keep the ball for any meanigful length of time. When they did win possession their tactic of hitting the ball long over the top wasn't having the desired effect.

The one time it brought them any joy came right at the end of the opening period as long ball down field found Cox, who controlled the ball neatly before shifting it off to Keane, but Pique got across to block his left-foot shot.

To the disappointment of the mass ranks of Irish fans in attendance, that moment proved a false dawn as Spain cranked back up the pressure after the break.

A reliable performer for Ireland over more than a decade, Given was having a tourmanent to forget and it was he who contributed to another avoidable goal. Given parried a Xabi Alonso shot struck straight at him back into the center of the area for David Silva to take up the ball. With three Irish defenders in his path, Silva showed incredible close control and composure as he jinked one way and then the next to completely befuddle the trio before placing his shot low past Given.

It was a moment of sheer class that perfectly encapsulated the difference between the sides.

The veteran between the sticks did earn an element of redemption as he pulled off a fine one-handed save from a powerful Xavi effort that looked certain to be heading for the back of the net.

With 30 minutes left to prolong their stay in Poland and Ukraine, Ireland finally began to emerge from their defensive encampment.

Something with which Spain, with the pace of Torres up front, were perfectly equipped to take advantage. On 70 minutes Spain ended what little Irish hope remained as Silva slipped Torres through and, in contrast to his failure to score when in similar positions against Italy, he finished with aplomb, side-footing the ball calmly past Given at the near post.

Ireland's misery was complete as they went to sleep at a corner allowing Silva to find Cesc Fabregas with a low corner to the near post. The Barcelona man took a fine touch past an Irish defender before firing the ball into the far side of the net from a tight angle.

With the match having long since been over as a contest, Spain coach Vicente Del Bosque took the opportunity to give some of his back-up players a run out. The stature of those coming on only reminding the rest of the competition just what astounding quality runs through this Spanish squad.


Spain 4-0 Rep. of Ireland (Euro 2012 - Group C)... by fasthighlights-2012