Gdansk, Group C: Spain v Republic of Ireland
It only took four minutes for Spain to take control of this match. It came from Fernando Torres and from there onwards the Republic of Ireland faced wave after wave of Spanish excellence. Surge after surge followed, a pattern that was to be repeated in the second half when David Silva doubled the lead to put the game beyond doubt. It was now clear that this game was an exhibition, from a team that are still hungry to show the world that they are the best.
Fernando Torres put in a third after seventy minutes, and still the Spanish kept coming, when they were not attacking they were simply gliding the ball around the park in a way reminiscent of Brazil in 1970.
As the game seemed to go asleep, with ten minutes to go, Cesc Fabregas fired in a fourth and still the Spanish kept coming to the shouts of ‘Ole’ from their fans.
Spain played like this until the end.
What marks this Spanish team out is how they play as a unit, each helping the other, always trying to regain the ball once lost. They grind a team down through skilfully passing the ball to one another, in whatever position, finding holes in the opposition defence working well within their limits – whatever they may be.
Ireland had their moments, but they were simply outclassed by a Spanish team that was chasing the impossibility that is perfection.
Unfortunately, for the passionate and fiercely loyal Irish fans that also meant their team spent most of the game chasing shadows.