It is a sad indictment of a national soccer side when all you can say is that their fans were boisterous and a joy to listen to, but after witnessing Spain’s 4-0 hammering of Ireland in Group C of EURO 2012 it is hard to say much more.
There are the facts: Fernando Torres scored his first goal after he picked the pocket of a grounded Richard Dunn, rounded another defender and blasted a shot off his right past a stranded Shay Given 4 minutes in.
For the rest of the half Spain toyed with the Irish as if they wanted to toss their pray from byline to byline, before going in for the kill. Then shortly after the half David Silva gleefully accepted a soft parry from Given, dummy thrice without touching the ball and then slotted the ball through defenders legs and past the sullen goalkeeper.
Sensing the rout the Irish fans began clamoring. They did not know what they wanted, but they knew they wanted something and were prepared to shout about it. This pressured the team in green even more and they chased harder, only tiring themselves out. The Spanish knocked little passes to each other, gifting it back if nothing was on and as the Irish hounded them they would suddenly spring a pass to overlapping Spanish wingers who had waited for the space.
It was almost cruel to see. So when Sean St. Ledger threw caution to the wind, only to jump out of the back four hole and throw himself to the deck, Torres burst force once again. A slide-rule pass from Silva allowed him the luxury of a one-on-one with Given and there was only going to be one winner there. 3-0.
Finally Ireland manager Giovanni Trapattoni realized that the Chelsea style was futile against such onslaught and gave youngsters a go, but it was too late. Ireland knew they were out. In the end it just took one last bolt from an tight angle by substitute Cesc Fabregas to render it 4-0 and to force the accepting Irish to sing when they were losing.
As the fans belted out The Fields of Athenry the team traipsed off the pitch.
Then there is the crushing context: EURO 2012 has been good, and no doubt the fans have loved every second of it, but this was an almost terminal result. Ireland need to rebuild their squad for the future and many players may not want to play again after this tournament.