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It’s the big one; Ireland take on world and European champions, Spain in Gdansk with their Euro 2012 campaign on the line. As always, we’d love to hear your thoughts on the game. E-mail adrian@thescore.ie, tweet @thescore_iepost a message to our Facebook wall, or leave a comment below. You may need to refresh the page for YouTube videos and other elements to display correctly.

As a great man once said: let’s go and compete.

Latest: Spain 4 Ireland 0

Mandzukic and Jelavic break towards the Italian defence at pace but their attempt at a neat one-two ends up handing possession back to the Italians.

Further changes for both sides — Eduardo replaces Jelavic for Croatia; Giovinco switches with Cassano for Italy.

Well, are we all present? Then let’s begin.

This is the game that needs no introduction. You’ll know that Spain have been the best team on the planet for the past four years, picking up the European and world titles. You’ll also know that they have players of the calibre of Xavi, Iniesta and Casillas. In a game in which we need to ‘get a result’, we’re very much up against it.

How are you feeling out there?

So let’s have the team news then shall we? The big news from the Ireland camp is that Simon Cox starts tonight ahead of Kevin Doyle. Does that mean he or Keane will drop into midfield? What it certainly does mean is that we don’t have the option of lumping it over the heads of the Spanish tiki-taka merchants and onto the head of a target man.

The Spaniards have a big striker this time out though: a certain F Torres starts.

So here’s confirmation of those teams from UEFA.

Ireland: Given, St Ledger, Ward, O’Shea, Dunne, Whelan, McGeady, Andrews, Duff, Keane, Cox.

Subs: Westwood, Forde, Kelly, McShane, O’Dea, Gibson, Hunt, Green, McClean, Doyle, Walters, Long.

Spain: Casillas, Piqué, Ramos, Arbeloa, Alba, Iniesta, Xavi, Alonso, Busquets, Silva, Torres

Subs: Valdés, Reina, Albiol, Martínez, Juanfran, Fàbregas, Cazorla, Navas, Pedro Rodríguez, Negredo, Mata, Llorente.

Marco Tardelli tells Dave Kelly that Doyle is dropped, not because of his performance, but because we need a different type of player. Keane will lead the line he adds. Dear me.

In the meantime, here’s some more key battles tonight.

Whatever happens, we’ll win the party, I suppose. There’s some pretty good pictures dropping in from Gdansk as we type:

Pic: INPHO/James Crombie

Our man Miguel Delaney is in the stadium for us tonight and will bring us reaction and analysis after the final whistle. More importantly he took a picture of Sara Carbonero earlier.

But he’s done a bit of work too. Here’s the answer to the question a few of you have been posing this week; who will he be shouting for tonight?

Billo says 74% of you mad eejits think we’ll ‘get a result’ as is the football vernacular tonight. So what are the permutations? Well, we reckon that a draw tonight, a win against Italy and Spain not beating Croatia will see us through and our path to the final in Kiev wide open. Simples.

RTÉ are pushing our buttons big time. It’s like when I went to see Paul McCarthy in the RDS and they flashed up images of George as he played ‘Something’ on a ukulele. Here’s what’s on the telly at the moment, file under goosebumps:

Youtybe: eastterracer

I have confidence in the players and their ability to perform but that team doesn’t inspire me,” says Eamo, adding Long or Walters would have been better options. It’s a weird feeling when you agree with Dunphy. I can also confirm that Liam Brady’s tie is green. I repeat: green.

Roy Keane is sat in the ITV studio with Patrick Vieira and Roberto Martinez. “The problem he’s got,” says the former Ireland skipper, “Cox hasn’t played too much football. But Trapattoni throughout his reign has been very loyal to a group of players but clearly he’s decided to make a change. But I don’t think the problem will be the two lads up front, it’ll be the midfield.”

We’ve just had Michael D Higgins offer us some words of encouragement on RTÉ. Keep it cool, he says, but allow it to be wild if necessary. Meanwhile, the teams are in the tunnel and the Irish players are moment away from the biggest game of their lives. No biggie.  Liam Brady says he wants to see us keep the ball and pile yet more pressure on the world champions. If we get to an hour scoreless, who knows he asks. Strap yourselves in then, Ireland.

Let’s have those last-minute predictions then…

And we’re up and running. The noise in the stadium seems to be at 11 as Simon Cox’s first real involvement is to win a free kick and then get a shot off which is knocked away.

GOAL! Spain 1 Ireland 0, Fernando Torres 4′

Well, I was about to say we’ve started brightly and managed not to concede after 120 seconds this time… and then we conceded after three and a half minutes. Iniesta threaded a lovely ball through the middle to Silva, Dunne flew in to tackle the Man City playmaker but Fernanado Torres reacted quicker to the second ball. The Chelsea striker took it around the outside of Stephen Ward, who could have done more, and then drove it over the hands of Given. That’s deflating.

Ireland earn their first corner of the game when a Keith Andrews shot is deflected over. It comes to little however. 10 minutes on the clock.

Bernard O’Flaherty from Kerry. Pic: INPHO/James Crombie

Ireland are now 59-1 to win this, according to Betfair. At the risk of making a stupid observations, they’re not doing too bad, apart from the goal. There’s been a couple of instances when they’ve been caught in possession and failed to clear their lines but Spain haven’t yet been allowed to settle into that familiar tiki-taka pattern, I think.

That’s a little better from Ireland. Stephen Ward takes advantage of a slip from Silva as he received a long pass from Xavi. He drove forward, fed Duff and, seeing Robbie Keane dart forward, tried to play him through but the patrolling Casillas was out to collect. 20 minutes now on the clock.

Good save from Given. Ireland lost the ball through a loose Andrews effort and Iniesta found himself barrelling through. With Torres lurking with intent, the Ireland ‘keeper knocks it to safety. Spain are purring now at this stage, check out this stat from FourFourTwo, via Balls.ie: Ireland have had 24 completed passes while Spain have hit the century mark.

We’re now half an hour into this thouroughly un-pleasant game. What needs to change?  If you’re asking me, Stephen Ward needs to take a seat on the bench and James McClean is worth a shot on the wing in place of the ineffective McGeady. I’d love to see Long or Walters trot on too but that’s not going to happen this side of half-time anyway.

If Spain score from this passage of play, Ireland will have plenty to moan about. Glenn Whelan was in possession when the referee barged into Keith Andrews, gifting possession to the Spanish.  As I type, Robbie Keane is booked for a late challenge on Iniesta. He’s giving us nothing.

Miguel tweets a little ray of hope from Gdansk: “Spain still a little bit too exhibitionist at only 1-0. It only takes a freak bounce.” There’s almost 43 minutes on the clock; let’s get in just the one goal down at half-time and who knows then. Trap needs to earn his money at the break though.

Ireland defend desperately and survive in no small part thanks to some good blocks and a last-ditch tackle from John O’Shea on the end line. Moments later, Ireland enjoy a rare foray forward with Cox laying it on for Keane whose shot is blocked. As I type, Glenn Whelan is booked for a cynical foul on Silva who was rampaging forward, due to Robbie losing possession right in the corner.

Half-time: The last action of the first 45 sees Shay Given punch an Iniesta shot over and to safety. Ireland ‘have been chasing shadows’ according to George Hamilton. But it’s just the one goal. Do you still believe?

I’m told Spain have had 64% of the possession. “There’s only one in it though,” shrugs Giles in the studio.  On a separate note, Mrs Keane is in attendance again:

Pic: INPHO/Donall Farmer

One expert’s view of that early goal:

“No excuses, the players have had to start the game quicker. Sean St Ledger was ball watching, okay it’s a good tackle by Richard but you’re looking at players around him to react quicker. He goes past ward too easily, and I’m going to be critical of goalkeepers but Shay has got to do better. A goalkeeper of Shay’s quality has to stop that.”

Who said it? Roy Maurice Keane on ITV. Think Ireland can get back in it? Check out the markets on Betfair here.

Dion Fanning of the Sunday Independent says Jon Walters is coming on. Who should he replace then?

We’re back, baby. Walters is on for Simon Cox but Spain are again in possession. All we need is a miracle.

GOAL! Spain 2 Ireland 0, Silva 48′

That’s your tournament folks. Spain are now two goals to the good thanks to another goal scored moments after a kick-off. In every half they’ve played, they’ve conceded an early goal. This one was scored by Silva after Richard Dunne gave the ball away and Shay Given punched a shot back into the danger zone. With three Irish defenders around him, he toed it past the Aston Villa ‘keeper. Game over.

Xabi Alonso is booked for a foul on Jon Walters who was spinning away from the Real Madrid midfielder. The Irish fans are, admirably, still singing in the rain.

SAVE! Shay Given has not been at his best in this tournament — and may well be unfit — but he just pulled off one of the saves of the week, getting a strong hand, at full stretch, to a shot inside the box. Jon Walters came away with the ball and expected Glenn Whelan to set him free with a one-two but the Stoke man wasted it again.

We were sent this by Brian Fallon in the Fan Camp in Gdansk at half-time. It’s like a sweet post-card from a more innocent age now. I remember when we were that optimistic.

Keith Andrews has been our best player over the past two games but he should have put his boot through the ball there and tested Casillas. McGeady took advantage of a Spanish mistake to break forward and should have shot himself really. When he ultimately gave the ball to Andrews, the West Brom man tried to square it with his right rather then just tucking it away. Very frustrating.

GOAL! Spain 3 Ireland 0, Torres 69′

Fernando Torres puts the tin hat on it. Iniesta and Silva pressured McGeady into a mistake in the centre circle. The Man City playmaker threaded it through for Torres and despite the efforts of Richard Dunne, he lifted it over Given. Del Bosque then substitutes him for Cesc Fabregas. McGeady, meanwhile, should follow him down the tunnel, in my opinion.

Depressing stat from Pat Nolan: “Ireland have now conceded as many goals in #Euro2012 as they did in the group stages for Euro ’88, Italia ’90 and US ’94 combined.” And our manager’s an Italian. Iniesta is off for Carzola and the unemployed Paul Green comes on for Whelan.

GOAL! Spain 4 Ireland 0, Fabregas 82′

Dear me. Where do you start with that one? Fabregas made a run to the front post to collect a corner ball with the entire Ireland defence looking at him. He took the ball inside Paul Green and drove it past a flat-footed Given. That sums it up.

They’re still singing in the stands. If this Irish team is statistically the worst in the tournament right now, then their fans are undoubtedly the best. But they’ll go no further than Poland this summer.

Full-time: Spain 4 Ireland 0 With the Fields of Athenry ringing around the Arena, the referee mercifully blows it up. The dream is over.

Eamon Dunphy mentions the name Stephen Ireland for the first time.

Roy Keane is ripping this performance apart on ITV, unsurprisingly. You wouldn’t see that first goal ‘on a Sunday morning’ says the Corkman. He’s not wrong. In the meantime, here’s our early match report.

Poor ol’ Keith Andrews: “We tried to learn our lesson from the first game, but we shot ourselves in the foot again. They are such a top side that any lapse of concentration and they’re going to punish you. The atmosphere was incredible. When you are losing 4-0 and they are singing like that. Unbelievable.”

Read more here.

“They want to see the team winning – let’s not kid ourselves, we’re a small country, we’re up against it, but let’s not just go along for the sing-song every now and again.” Roy Keane is not impressed tonight.

Okey doke *shuffles pages* That’s all we’ve got time for. Thanks for your company on what was one of the most depressing nights of my professional career. Let’s never talk of it again.

We’ll have more reaction and analysis from Gdansk tonight and in the morning of course. Join us then.

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