Spain have thrashed Ireland 4-0 to take lead of their group at the Euro 2012. With Hibernian officially out of the tournament, Croatia and Italy could still able to leapfrog the reigning World and European champs in the fight for playoffs.
The Spaniards effectively had no problems in their game against Ireland in Gdansk. Fernando Torres broke the deadlock already on the 4th minute as Vicente del Bosque’s charges were steadily pushing the tempo.
Their dominance brought them three more goals in the second half. First David Silva doubled the lead, elegantly firing home a hidden shot, then Torres converted a one-on-one attempt, before Cesc Fabregas fixed the final score at 4-0.
Despite the loss, thousands of Irish fans warmly welcomed the team on the stands after the game. Ireland hasn’t qualified to the major European competition since 1988, and just playing in Poland was a big achievement for Robbie Keane, Shay Given and rest of the squad.
Italy 1-1 Croatia
Italy had numerous first-half chances from Mario Balotelli, Claudio Marchisio and Antonio Cassano, but it was Andrea Pirlo who gave Italy the lead with a curving free kick in the 39th minute. The Italian veteran sent the ball over Croatia's wall and just inside the near post. Croat goalkeeper Stipe Pletikosa could only get a weak hand on it when the ball was already inside his net.
Instead of capitalizing on their advantage, the Italians preferred to sit back and absorb Croatia's attacks. And they were punished for being overcautious. Mario Mandzukic found himself unmarked in the box and equalized 18 minutes from time.
Having already claimed three goals at the tournament, the Wolfsburg forward joined Russia’s Alan Dzagoev and Germany’s Mario Gomez on top of the best goalscorers list.
In the final round of group matches on Monday, Italy, with two points after two games, face underdogs Ireland, while Croatia take on Spain with both teams having 4 points.
“The squad is alive and we'll fight to the end,” Italy’s head coach Cesare Prandelli pledged.
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