The Republic of Ireland were no competition for Spain on Thursday with four goals from the reigning World Champions sending the first team out of the tournament.

A brace from Fernando Torres inspired the Spaniards to a 4-0 thrashing of Ireland in a game that showed the huge gulf in talent between the two nations.

For all their endeavour in defence, Ireland struggled constantly to cope with the torrent of Spanish attacks as Torres proved he is back to his best with two clinically-taken goals.

Having decided the Euro 2008 final with the winning goal against Germany, Torres netted either side of David Silva second-half strike before his replacement Cesc Fabregas added the fourth seven minutes from time.

"That is a very good win for us," said Spain coach Vicente del Bosque.

"We brought in Torres to score goals, which is what he did and if we stay with this defensive line we will have things easy.

"It will be dangerous to play for the draw against Croatia and we won't play for the draw."

'Chasing shadows'

Ireland midfielder Keith Andrews admitted it had been a torrid night.

"We were chasing shadows," said Andrews.

"We said before the match we should learn from our mistakes in the first game but then we shot ourselves in the foot by conceding an early goal. Make no mistake they are a top side and we were always up against it.

"In terms of the Italy game we are playing for pride simple as that."

"In terms of the Italy game we are playing for pride simple as that"

Ireland midfielder Keith Andrews

With 66 percent ball possession, 26 shots on goal, 20 of which were on target, Ireland goalkeeper Shay Given had a busy night as Spain dominated while Ireland managed just six shots on goal in total.

The win puts Spain top of the group on goal difference and level on four points with second-placed Croatia, who Del Bosque's world champions face at Arena Gdansk again on Monday.

Italy, who drew 1-1 with Croatia earlier, have two points in third and can still progress if they beat Ireland in Poznan, Poland, the same day, but the Azzurri are reliant on either Spain or Croatia winning in Gdansk.

Spain had complained to UEFA about the dry condition of the Gdansk pitch during Sunday's 1-1 draw with Italy as Fabregas labelled it "a disaster", but heavy rain during Thursday's match made the issue null and void.

Having used a 4-3-3 formation against Italy without a recognised striker, del Bosque elected to start Torres at the expense of Fabregas.

The Chelsea star rewarded the faith with two goals and a dominating display up front.

"We knew from the beginning we needed to win this game and the next one," man-of-the-match Torres told reporters.

"With the early goal everything was easier and the performance of the team was really great tonight.

"We are well on the way to getting through to the next round. All our minds are focused on the next game now."

But an early exit from the tournament didn't stop the Irish supporters from enjoying a night in the rain. 

Despite sliding to a predictable defeat, Ireland's fans were singing their hearts out long after the final whilstle and their presence will remain one of the abiding memories of the tournament, as it so often does.

Source: Agencies