Spain manager Vicente Del Bosque reluctantly confirmed the selection of a true striker in Fernando Torres and benched the in-form Cesc Fabregas. Amid scrutiny and doubt, the Chelsea forward quickly rewarded that decision by scoring twice in his nation’s 4-0 rout of Ireland.
Torres took advantage of the Republic of Ireland’s failure to clear the ball inside a crowded box in the opening minutes and struck powerfully to give the Spaniards a 1-0 lead in the fourth minute.
The Irish, who needed a result to remain alive in Euro 2012, defended valiantly for the remainder of the first half, restricting the defending champions to a 1-0 score.
However, four minutes following the interval, Manchester City’s David Silva scored from close range to double Spain’s advantage and put Giovanni Trapattoni’s men on the verge of elimination.
If there were any questions left regarding the result of the match, Torres put them away in the 70th minute when he broke through the defense and finished clinically past Shay Given.
Given, who had been brilliant in saving many other Spanish shots, was harshly punished once more when substitute Fabregas – who had come on for Torres – smashed from an acute angle to extend his country’s advantage by four.
Spain have now joined Croatia atop Group C with four points ahead of the clash between the two sides four days from now.
Ireland, meanwhile, have been officially eliminated from the tournament as tonight’s disappointment followed their 3-1 defeat to Croatia on Sunday.
Even a win over Italy – who remain in contention with two points – can’t save the Irish now as three points won’t be enough to keep them mathematicaly alive in the competition.