Torres at the double as Ireland crash out
Fernando Torres helped bury the Republic of Ireland's Euro 2012 campaign with two delicious goals as world champions Spain coasted to a 4-0 win in Gdansk.
Spain recorded their biggest win at the European Championship finals with some ease as Ireland followed up their 3-1 loss to Croatia in Group C on Sunday by shipping four more goals against the world and European champions, who were hardly made to work for their haul at the Polish city's PGE Arena.
The defensive success that had helped Giovanni Trapattoni's Ireland reach their first major tournament since the 2002 World Cup finals in Japan and South Korea collapsed all around them amid a series of wretched mistakes on a saturated night that was damp for the Irish players, supporters and coaching team in more ways than one.
Spain were their usual menacing self, but there is little doubt that Ireland contributed to their own downfall with a lack of organisation all too obvious at key moments.
Torres (4,70), David Silva (49) and Torres's late replacement Cesc Fabregas (82) consigned Ireland to their heaviest defeat at a major tournament. In truth, it could have been much, much worse for an Irish side who will probably reflect on their efforts at this tournament with a real sense of regret. They lost seven goals in 10 matches in qualifying before losing seven in two outings at the finals. It is hardly heroic stuff.
Spain are not yet through to the last eight despite drubbing the Irish. Vicente del Bosque's team will qualify for the quarter-finals if they beat Group C rivals Croatia on Monday with Ireland concluding their campaign against Italy on the same night before they fly home.
Chelsea forward Torres looked a different figure from the hesitant striker who missed a couple of chances as a substitute in the 1-1 draw with Italy on Sunday as he careered into the box before thumping an effort through Irish goalkeeper Shay Given, who should perhaps have the made the stop despite the energy of the strike.
With Richard Dunne kicking fresh air while Torres applied the finish for his first competitive goal since September 2010, it left Ireland firmly on the back foot only days after they haemorrhaged an early goal in falling behind to Croatia on only three minutes.
To illustrate the gulf in class, Xavi and Xabi Alonso had completed more passes by half-time than the Irish team, who staggered to the sanctuary of the dressing room having put together only 104 in the first half.
Spain simply had to find a second goal given their ball retention and it arrived moments after half-time when Given could only palm an Iniesta effort straight to Silva, who slipped the shot through three Irish players and Given to hand Spain a 2-0 lead.
It was horrid defending at any level, but Ireland's night got worse when Aiden McGeady lost possession to Silva who sent Torres bounding clear. He waited for Given to make his move before planting the ball into the net for a 3-0 lead.
Torres has now scored 30 goals for Spain. Only Raul (44) and David Villa (51) have scored more goals for their country.
While the Irish fans continued to sing, Spain continued to pass. Ireland were a bedraggled-looking lot when they seemed to fall asleep for the fourth goal from a short corner.
Fabregas was unforgivably left unmarked in the Irish area moments after replacing Torres and he walloped a fierce shot between Keith Andrews and Given to finish off the Irish in every sense.
Ireland managed to exercise Spain goalkeeper Iker Casillas a couple of times. Simon Cox saw a shot saved in the opening minutes while Keane forced Casillas to halt an effort in the second period, but Ireland rarely tested an opposing side who basked in over 70 per cent of possession.
Indeed, the imperious Xavi set a European Championship passing record by putting together 136 on the night. The previous best recorded at the European Championships was 117 by Ronald Koeman against Denmark in 1992.
The travelling band of Irish followers deserve great credit for their fanatical support in the Polish drizzle. It is just a pity their players could not match such levels on the park. Conceding seven goals in two games means they are the first team to be ousted from these finals.