I dissect the latest Euro 2012 game in which Spain ran riot against Giovanni Trappatoni’s Republic of Ireland side. Goals from Fernando Torres (2), David Silva and Cesc Fabregas sealed a 4-0 victory for Spain, but what else did we learn?
Too easy for Spain as they win at a canter
Nothing new to learn from this game, simply revision. Imagine you were reading the ‘Spanish handbook to winning football matches’; on tonight’s slaughtering of Ireland you wouldn’t need to go beyond the first chapter! ‘Be patient, keep possession, probe and repeat for 90 minutes’. Ireland barely saw the ball as Xavi and Alonso effortlessly orchestrated proceedings from the moment the whistle was blown. La Roja glided across the pitch and fought tirelessly on the few instances when the ball fell out of their gentle, placid custody as though it was their young. An impressive performance but Ireland made it easy for them.
Ireland too slow out of the blocks
Blocks I said! Though you’d be forgiven for hearing a slightly similar phrase reverberate around Gdansk in an Irish drawl just three minutes in after Fernando Torres had given Spain an early lead. The strike mirrored the dreadful start to the Croatia game when Ireland fell behind so early on in such idle circumstances. Torres could have been stopped or at least forced further wide by the awestruck defence, all of whom seemed to be reacting in slow motion, including an unusually immobile Shay Given. A rapid turn of pace and a devastating shot within a split second and the feint hope of staying in the competition all but dissolved. Déjà vu struck just after half-time, Given again at fault, but by that time it was all but over.
Two fine strikes of confidence for Torres
Having exclaimed for an injection of pace up front after the Italy experiment, Fernando Torres delivered within an instant to take the game by the scruff of the neck. First an awesome turn of pace followed by a ripper of a shot and then a clinical 1-on-1 finish proved the capability of the £50million man. Both of his goals were finished with sublime confidence, a real change compared to the form we saw at Chelsea for much of the season. And having only scored his first international goal for almost a year in the warm up games, perhaps surprisingly we saw Torres back to his best and hungry to add to his Euro 2008 medal where he scored the winner in the final. This summer could prove a real revolution for El Nino.
Goals galore in Gdansk
The margin of victory rarely matters as Spain concede so few goals anyway but tonight it was crucial. Having drawn against Italy earlier, Croatia were enjoying their stint atop Group C and hoping that their superior goal difference would maintain their position even with a Spain victory. Three goals would have been satisfactory for Spain to slay their chequered rivals for the number one spot but instead they carved out one more than required, meaning they take up pole position ahead of the vital final game. If Italy beat Ireland by enough then a draw in the other game will see a dead heat as the top three teams will be wedged together on 5 points. Various head-to-head equations makes the situation complex but take my word for it, if it does come down to goal difference then Spain have covered their back with four against the Irish.
Stunning atmosphere ensures Euros will be fondly remembered
No monkey chanting, no racial hatred, not even boozed up buffoons were present in Gdansk tonight. Simply the all-out blind optimism of the Ireland supporters versus the joyous celebrations of the victorious Spanish fans, and it made for a spectacular atmosphere. Like the persistent drizzle, the songs rarely lifted from the air and ensured that both sets of fans left the stadium with smiles. Ireland’s fans might not have believed their team would scrape anything from the game but nevertheless gave their all from the stands; an uplifting memory from a tournament troubled by exterior motives and gestures.