Man of the Match: When the lineups came out, we flippantly said Fernando Torres could score two goals without being very good, such were the advantages Spain over Ireland. Torres did get a pair, but rather then blindly stumble onto his goals, he was quite good. Opportunism led to his first, taking the ball off Richard Dunne in the fourth minute to create an easy chance. In the second half, David Silva put him in from 30 yards out, and while it was not a difficult finish, it was a confidence-booster – the type of chance we’ve seen Torres struggle to finish throughout his prolonged swoon.
NBC Sports: Torres scores 2 as Spain eliminates Ireland
Packaged for takeaway:
- There isn’t much to say about a match that was so completely dominated from start to finish. In our preview, we speculated this could be the most lopsided match of the tournament, and unfortunately, we were right. Ireland can be as disciplined as they want at the back, but if they don’t have the quickness to react to Spain’s passes, they’re nothing more than highly evolved pylons.
- Spain had 66 percent of the game’s possession (per UEFA), outshot the Irish 26 to 6, and set a tournament record with 859 passes.
- Giovanni Trapattoni made one change from Monday, bringing Simon Cox in for Kevin Doyle. Doyle was Irelands best player on Monday, you say? No matter.
- There was some speculation that this meant playing 4-5-1, but the system was largely unchanged, and Cox was ineffective. Jon Walters, coming on at half time, provided some energy that would have helped at the get go.
- Beyond his two goals, Torres’s value was seen in the effectiveness of the front three worked. With somebody playing at a level higher than Andres Iniesta and David Silva, the area behind the forward as freed up for not only those wide attackers but also Xavi Hernández, who was more active tonight than he was against Italy. Silva had a goal and two assists, while Iniesta was involved in building all three goals.
- Spain didn’t wait to see if Ireland would change how they played. They pushed everybody forward from the start. Jordi Alba attacked, even making some runs into the box (which he didn’t do against Italy). Gerard Pique had some trademark incursions into the attacking third. Even Alvaro Arbeloa was dangerous, putting two good shots on Shay Given. Every Spaniard attacked when they could, with Ireland posing no threat of retaliation.
- Given had a very bad night. The first goal went a foot over his head into net. The second goal was more excusable, but it was not a well struck ball and came after Given’s poor punch on an Iniesta shot. The fourth goal (from Cesc Fabregas) was shot from a very sharp angle to the right of goal, an angle from which a `keeper should never concede.
- Spain carried so many advantages into this game, it’s useless to infer anything from the result. There’s no team in this tournament that will make life as easy as the Irish did. Between their two-man midfield, lack of foot speed, absence of physical strength in middle of the park, propensity to sit and wait, and weak threat on the counter, Ireland was tailor-made for Spain. Nothing the holders did today makes them a better (or worse) bet to win the tournament.
- Ireland is eliminated. They’ll be playing for pride against Italy. For an Azzurri side that seems to be better on the counter (and has only scored one open play goal this tournament), Ireland will be a significant obstacle.
- For Spain, the lopsided result means a draw with Croatia is likely to give them the group, which they’ll claim outright with a win.
ProSoccerTalk is doing its best to keep you up to date on what’s going on in Poland and Ukraine. Check out the site’s Euro 2012 page and look at the site’s previews, predictions, and coverage of all the events defining UEFA’s championship.
PORTO ALEGRE, Brazil (AP) Brazil’s Gremio has won the Recopa Sudamericana, beating Argentina’s Independiente 5-4 in a penalty shootout Wednesday night.
The two-legged final ended 1-1 on aggregate, with no goals scored after 120 minutes in the second.
The winners of last year’s Copa Libertadores overcame the holders of Copa Sudamericana after goalkeeper Marcelo Grohe stopped the last penalty of the series, taken by Independiente’s striker Martin Benitez.
The Recopa is played between the champions of South America’s two most important tournaments.
Independiente played most of the match down to 10 players after defender Fernando Amorebieta was sent off after 38 minutes.
The Brazilians made most of the pressure until the end of extra time, but failed to score.
Gremio also won the Recopa in 1996.
The CONCACAF Champions League returned Tuesday with Toronto FC’s 2-0 quarterfinal first leg win in Colorado, and a trio of ties began Wednesday across Panama, Costa Rica, and Honduras.
[ WATCH: Fred’s vicious free kick ]
Tauro 1-0 FC Dallas
Veteran striker Edwin Aguilar scored a big goal, and goalkeeper Oscar McFarlane did plenty of good things as the Panamanian side struck a wild first blow against its MLS visitors.
Here’s a random fact underscoring how remarkable of a failure this would be for FC Dallas: Only six of Tauro’s roster members have their own Wikipedia page.
Deportivo Saprissa 1-5 Club America
Cecilio Dominguez and Mateus Uribe each bagged a brace, and Renato Ibarra also scored as the tournament’s top team sauntered into and out of Costa Rica on Wednesday. Club America has been to seven CCL finals, and one every single one.
Motagua vs. Club Tijuana — 10 a.m. ET
Honduran hosts hope to have a leg to stand on — pun intended — once the tie heads to Mexico.
English Conference Premier side Dagenham and Redbridge has seen better days, and is getting a hand from a Premier League pal.
[ WATCH: Fred’s vicious free kick ]
West Ham United will pay a visit to Dag & Red as part of the latter’s #SaveTheDaggers campaign, and the March 21 date will cost fans between $7 and $21 to see a top flight side at 6,000-seat Victoria Road.
Dagenham and Redbridge chairman Paul Gwinn said, “It really will help save our club.”
“So please come on down to the Chigwell Construction Stadium for an additional night of football. Bring a friend, or two, or more and we can use the gate takings to help get us back on track,” reads a press release.
Dag & Red was founded in 1992 and climbed as high as League One in 2011, and plays just 2.5 miles from West Ham United’s training ground. Newcastle’s Matt Ritchie and Dwight Gayle are among Dag & Red alums in the Premier League.
It’s a terrific gesture from West Ham, and is even more impressive in the United States where the growing club game is increasingly cutthroat (especially between non-synced leagues).
AS Roma manager Eusebio Di Francesco absolutely roasted his charges after i Lupi tossed aside a Cenzig Under-inspired lead to fall 2-1 at Shakhtar Donetsk in the first leg of their UEFA Champions League Round of 16 tie on Wednesday.
Di Francesco had praise for Edin Dzeko, who assisted Under’s goal, as well as goalkeeper Alisson, but was mostly enraged by his side.
[ MORE: Recap + Fred’s vicious free kick ]
Rather than construct a narrative, we’re going to point out our five favorite selections from Di Francesco’s post-match talk.
4) “The difference was that in the first half we tried to hurt them while in the second we were looking to hold on – to what? I don’t know.”
— “To what? I don’t know” is hilarious. Di Francesco’s side has posted some serious wins this season, including killing off Chelsea 3-0 at home and coming back from 2-0 to draw the Blues at Stamford Bridge. He doesn’t preach sitting back.
3) “There were far too many schoolboy errors – even by players with a wealth of international experience.”
— Schoolboy errors!
2) “I saw two completely different teams out there today. There were lots of players I should have taken off after we conceded the first goal.”
— Again, one mistake by a number of players on Facundo Ferreyra is enough for Di Francesco. He’s not just happy to be here.
1) “I can’t imagine we’d get arrogant just because we’re winning an important game. It’s not as if Roma are used to reaching the final every year.”
— When you’re willing to essentially rip an entire club’s history — Roma’s been to just two UCL quarterfinals since losing the final to Liverpool in 1984 — you’re putting your footprints in new cement.