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Torres inspires Spain to Ireland rout

By Kevin Darling, CNN
updated 7:12 AM EDT, Fri June 15, 2012
Spain's soccer team celebrates with the Euro 2012 trophy on a double-decker bus during the victory parade in Madrid on Monday. Spain defeated Italy 4-0 in the final match on Sunday. Euro 2012, bringing together 16 of Europe's best national soccer teams, began June 8 in Poland and Ukraine. Look back at the action and atmosphere. Spain's soccer team celebrates with the Euro 2012 trophy on a double-decker bus during the victory parade in Madrid on Monday. Spain defeated Italy 4-0 in the final match on Sunday. Euro 2012, bringing together 16 of Europe's best national soccer teams, began June 8 in Poland and Ukraine. Look back at the action and atmosphere.
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STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Fernando Torres scores twice in 4-0 victory for defending champions Spain
  • David Silva and Cesc Fabregas also on target as Ireland are eliminated
  • Mario Mandzukic secures a 1-1 for Croatia against Italy
  • Italy took lead though Andrea Pirlo's brilliant first-half free-kick

(CNN) -- Fernando Torres rediscovered his scoring touch as Spain soared to the top of Euro 2012 Group C and knocked the Republic of Ireland out of the tournament.

The much-maligned striker, who spurned several chances in Spain's opening game against Italy, scored twice as the defending champions cruised to a 4-0 win in Gdansk.

Strikes from David Silva and Cesc Fabregas helped to see off Giovanni Trapattoni's Ireland, who become the first team eliminated from Euro 2012.

In Thursday's other game in Group C, Croatia fought back to hold Italy to a 1-1 draw.

The Italians dominated the first half and evergreen playmaker Andrea Pirlo put his side in front with an exquisite free-kick.

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But in-form striker Mario Mandzukic, who scored twice in Croatia's first match, brought his tournament tally to three with an emphatic finish to earn a point.

Spain 4-0 Ireland

Fernando Torres bagged a much-needed double as Spain thrashed the Republic of Ireland and cemented their status as Euro 2012 favorites.

After being frustrated by Italy in their opening game, Vicente Del Bosque's world champions looked close to their best in a display that dazzled the Irish.

Giovanni Trapattoni's side struggled to create a meaningful chance in the whole match and they limp out of the tournament following two defeats.

Spain outclassed their opponents from the first whistle and led after four minutes when Torres skipped away from Richard Dunne's challenge and blasted high into the net.

Goalkeeper Shay Given kept his side in it until halftime, making several saves as the Spanish controlled possession and created chances at will.

But Ireland's dreams were extinguished shortly after the break when Given could only parry Andres Iniesta's strike straight to David Silva, who placed a remarkably cool finish past the keeper's despairing dive.

But the night belonged to Torres, who was restored to the starting lineup as Spain ditched the unusual 4-6-0 formation employed against Italy.

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Can Spain win without Villa and Puyol?

The Chelsea striker notched his second of the evening when Ireland carelessly lost the ball in midfield and Silva sent him through to tuck a calm finish past Given.

The rout was complete when substitute Fabregas took advantage of more ponderous Ireland defending to lash a ferocious angled drive in off the post.

Croatia 1-1 Italy

Mario Mandzukic's third goal of Euro 2012 secured a precious point for Croatia as Italy let a lead slip for the second successive time in the tournament.

The elegant Italians controlled much of the game and lead though a superb free-kick from Andrea Pirlo but they were thwarted by Mandzukic's close-range strike 18 minutes from time.

Cesare Prandelli's side will now go into their final Group C game against Ireland in desperate need of a win, while Croatia will feel they are one step closer to surviving the so-called "Group of Death."

Despite another impressive showing from Italy following their much-heralded draw with Spain, they were left to rue a lack of cutting edge in attack.

Flamboyant striker Mario Balotelli kept his place up front and looked dangerous, but he failed to convert the several half-chances that came his way before being substituted on 68 minutes.

Italy's star performer was veteran midfielder Pirlo, who was at the heart of his side's fluent passing game and gave them a deserved lead on 33 minutes.

After Balotelli has been fouled 22 yards from goal, Pirlo stepped up to curl a wonderful free-kick over the wall, beating Croatia goalkeeper Stipe Pletikosa at his near post.

The Italians looked in control but they had never previously beaten their Adriatic neighbors -- and the run continued thanks to Mandzukic's late leveler.

When defender Giorgio Chiellini misjudged Ivan Rakitic's cross, Mandzukic took a brilliant touch and smashed the ball in off the post from six yards.

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