Story by Robin Popley
The Irish dream is all over, following a night to forget, in Gdansk. Spain, their misers, following a drubbing 4-0 defeat on Thursday night. Once more, though, they were the catalysts for their own demise. Sadly.
After having conceded early against Croatia, it would be assumed that Trapattoni told his troops that keeping a lid on the Spanish advances, was essential if they were to get anything from the game. However, despite his best efforts, his team’s defensive frailties were exposed after 4 minutes (one minute longer than before). The scorer, The Barclays Premiership’s most expensive player, Fernando Torres. Despite having a pretty torrid time in domestic football since switching Anfield for Stamford Bridge, in cup competition Torres has looked every bit the player Chelsea parted £50m with, for his services. The highlight of his upsurge in fortunes, before Thursday, was ‘that’ night in Barcelona when Chelsea “effectively” usurped the former as European Champions. Although, his 4th minute strike was taken with precision, his night’s work was not yet complete.
The Republic of Ireland managed to hold on until after half-time before conceding again, yet, like against Croatia: another cruel blow was dealt so early into 2nd half proceedings. This time, the goalscorer was David Silva, scoring in the 49th minute. The Manchester City midfielder had played marvellously to that point and fully deserved his goal to cap another good showing. Then, to all-but-seal the match, Torres once again broke through the Irish back-line to fire the ball past Shay Given. The rout was complete 7 minutes before the end, when former-Arsenal midfielder, Cesc Fabregas, drilled a powerful shot into the Irish net (unmarked) from a corner.
Irish hearts were broken everywhere but Spain go on to almost certainly qualify for the knock-out stages, where they will be hoping, to defend their illustrious crown.
In the day’s other match, Italy and Croatia served up a nail-biting but quite, cagey, affair as the match ended all square at 1 – 1. The Italian’s had early chances to go in front but eventually took the lead from a 1st half Pirlo free kick. Masterful. Tireless. Precise.
The Italian’s looked good value for their lead but became more conservative in their play as the match wore on. The equaliser almost looked inevitable, and sure enough, came courtesy of Mandzukic (the man at the centre of Ireland’s downfall) after 72 minutes. Both teams had chances to win it at the death but a draw will favour Croatia more. However, it is still all to play for, going into the final day!