Ireland were thoroughly embarrassed by Spain today in Euro 2012 Group C play, losing 4-0 and becoming the first team mathematically eliminated from the tournament. Their final match against Italy will be solely for pride, and their current -6 goal differential is the worst in the tournament by a wide margin. 4-0 marks the biggest loss ever for Ireland in the tournament, and Spain's biggest ever win. (Opta Sport)
The statistics are damning. Xavi and Xabi Alonso completed more passes than the whole team of Ireland (104). Xavi was the first player ever in the Euros to have 129 touches in 90 minutes. At 860 passes, Spain reached a plateau never before reached in a Euro match, not even in matches that went 120 minutes. It was simply a case of a great team, meeting a team that just isn't on this level yet. The Irish fans, though loud throughout the match, were understandably sad.
As for Robbie Keane, the Irish seemed to borrow strategy from the LA Galaxy. Long balls with Keane as the target man. Predictably it didn't work, and the strategy came under fire from several pundits. Keane was also criticized for not being a part of the action. In the last half hour of the match, he completed just one pass.
With the early exit ensured, Galaxy fans can rest easy knowing Sunday's match against Portland Timbers will be the only match Keane misses. With Edson Buddle recovering from surgery, and Adam Cristman out with concussion symptoms, and Landon Donovan coming back from an intensive World Cup Qualifying period Bruce Arena will have to get creative with his starting XI.
So who would you start up top on Sunday?