The fact that Shay Given, Robbie Keane and Damien Duff have 342 international caps between them highlights the dearth of talent that exists and has existed in the Republic of Ireland squad for a decade or so. Those three are good, hard working, professionals but none of them have succeeded at the highest level of club football and at international level the fact that they were the three most experienced players on the Irish side illustrates the gulf in class even before the match began.
Ireland were very poor and Spain were very good. There's nothing to be ashamed of losing to the current European and World Champions and I'm sure that Croatia and whoever Spain meet in the Quarter Finals (possibly England) will not thank them for allowing Fernando Torres the opportunity to regain his form.
The thing is though that watching Ireland you get the sense that for some of the players simply being there is enough, it's not their fault they aren't good enough or that their home league isn't capable of producing a single player who would get in the squads of the other 15 teams but Ireland isn't so different in population than say Denmark or Croatia and you could say that even just qualifying for the Euros was some sort of victory. Given the rush of players born in N.Ireland wishing to transfer their footballing alleigance south of the border you would hope that over the next decade Ireland can produce a generation of players to emulate the 1988-1994 squads but football isn't a priority in a country where rugby union and hurling are still retain the nations affections and I can't see it happening soon.
An illustration of how poor Ireland were can be seen by the fact that Xavi Hernandez actually managed to play the full ninety minutes, something that we weren't expecting would happen due to his ongoing achilles problem, and looked as if he could have played another ninety minutes straight afterwards.
If you love stats then try these babies: Spain had 76% of possession, completed a staggering 860 passes*, and had 27 shots at goal (15 on target) Ireland had 6 of which just 2 troubled Iker Casillas who must have spent the second half sat behind the goal reading a copy of Marca with a cigar on.
Torres has scored six goals in three games against Irish goalkeepers this season, he must be hoping that Croatian goalkeeper Stipe Pletikosa suddenly discovers a grandmother in Kilkenny and a liking for Guinness before the two teams meet on Monday night.
* this figure excludes crosses and is the highest number of passes in a match (including those that have gone to extra time) since stats for this sort of thing began.