Spain’s passing dazzles in 4-0 win over Ireland

Spain’s dazzling ball control, dizzying passing game and deluge

of shots were way too much for Ireland.

Fernando Torres scored a goal in each half, and David Silva and

substitute Cesc Fabregas added the others as Spain beat Ireland 4-0

and eliminated the Irish from the European Championship with its

most lopsided loss in 41 years.

Spain, which leads Group C along with Croatia with four points,

dominated the tempo and scoring opportunities through its quick

combinations and precise passing. The defending champions completed

an incredible 779 passes and took 26 shots – 20 of them on goal –

in a performance that put it on course for a spot in the


Torres, who scored in the Euro 2008 final, put Spain ahead early

after dispossessing Richard Dunne inside the area and scurrying

past Stephen Ward before sending an angled shot over goalkeeper

Shay Given in the fourth minute.

Torres started over Fabregas as the world champions reverted to

fielding a traditional striker after the attack was led by six

midfielders against Italy. The Chelsea striker showed that a late

season turnaround was no fluke as he became Spain’s third all-time

leading scorer with 30 goals in 95 appearances.

”We wanted to win, to make a better impression than we did

against Italy,” said Torres, whose team completed three times as

many passes as the Irish. ”From the first minute we showed the

character to win.”

Torres’ first goal marked the start of Spain’s assault on the

Irish, who had started well with Simon Cox forcing Spain goalkeeper

Iker Casillas into a tricky save in the second minute.

”Unfortunately the goal for the second time after three minutes

throws your tactical plan out the window,” said Ireland coach

Giovanni Trapattoni, whose team also conceded early in a 3-1 loss

to Croatia.

But Spain’s combination passing got better, leaving Ireland in a

constant chase. Spain midfielders Xavi Hernandez and Xabi Alonso

exploited every crack through the middle with pinpoint passes that

were either spoiled by poor finishing, blocked shots or saves.

”For the vast majority of time, we were chasing shadows,”

Ireland midfielder Keith Andrews said.

Silva was a continuous threat inside the area before finally

converting early in the second half. The Manchester City forward

gathered the ball inside the area in the 49th before showing some

patience by rolling a left-footed shot around two defenders and

through Dunne’s legs and out of the reach of Given.

Given still made clutch stops on shots from Andres Iniesta, Xavi

and Alonso, who pushed forward alongside fullbacks Alvaro Arbeloa

and Jordi Alba as Spain looked for goals.

”They are the best side I’ve ever played against and probably

the best side I will ever play against,” Ireland defender Sean St.

Ledger said.

While Ireland enjoyed a brief spell of chances in the second

half, with Casillas stretching to save a shot from Robbie Keane in

the 75th, it was Torres who ran on to Silva’s pass and held off

Dunne’s pressure to shoot around Given in the 70th.

”That why we put him on, to do what he did today, to score

goals,” Spain coach Vicente del Bosque said. ”It was an exemplary

game for us in many senses. We played a very complete game.

Fabregas, who scored against Italy while playing in an unlikely

attacking role, received Silva’s corner at the near side and sent a

shot off the inside of the far post to complete the rout in the


Ireland will play its final match against Italy, which has two

points and needs of a victory to advance to the quarterfinals.

Spain can advance with a draw against Croatia on Monday.

”To go out looking for a draw would be very dangerous,” Del

Bosque said.


Spain: Iker Casillas; Sergio Ramos, Gerard Pique, Jordi Alba,

Alvaro Arbeloa; Sergio Busquets, Xabi Alonso (Javi Martinez, 65),

Xavi Hernandez, Andres Iniesta (Santi Cazorla, 80), David Silva;

Fernando Torres (Cesc Fabregas, 74).

Ireland: Shay Given; John O’Shea, Richard Dunne, Sean St.

Ledger, Stephen Ward; Damien Duff (James McClean, 76) Keith

Andrews, Glenn Whelan (Paul Green, 80), Aiden McGeady; Simon Cox

(Jon , Robbie Keane.

Paul Logothetis can be reached at: