EURO 2012 LIVE: Spain 4 Ireland 0

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By JACK BEZANTS, Associated Press

WARSAW, Poland (AP) — Defending champion Spain beat Ireland 4-0 in Group C at the European Championship on Thursday. Earlier, Italy drew 1-1 with Croatia.

Here is a running account of Thursday's action. All times are local to Poland.

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2250: Irish midfielder Keith Andrews gives an honest assessment of what turned out to be a hugely one-sided game: "For the vast majority of time, we were chasing shadows," he says. On Friday, co-host Ukraine plays France in Donetsk before Sweden takes on England in Group D at the Olympic Stadium, Kiev.

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2239: The Spanish were sensational — and Ireland didn't have a chance. Two goals from Fernando Torres are a big plus for Spain. An in-form and confident Torres would be a huge boost to its hopes of defending its title. David Silva and Cesc Fabregas scored the other two. As for Ireland, they play for pride against Italy on Monday as they are out of the tournament, while Spain will look to secure progression to the knock out stage when they play Croatia.

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2235: Full time: Spain 4, Ireland 0.

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2227: What a finish from Fabregas. Spain wins a corner after a great save from Given who tips a Santi Cazorla curler round the post. The resulting corner finds Fabregas, who takes it wide before blasting the ball in off the far post. Given had no chance of saving it. Superbly taken goal and after that you can understand why Vicente del Bosque started him as a striker against Italy. Four minutes left to play here at the PGE Arena. Ireland are moments away from becoming the first team to be eliminated from the European Championship.

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2224: GOAL! Spain 4, Ireland 0 (Fabregas.)

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2220: Xavi shoots from a free kick from 30 yards, but it sails wide. A little over 10 minutes left to play here in Gdansk. James McClean comes on for Ireland, replacing Damien Duff. For Spain, Andres Iniesta is withdrawn and Santi Cazorla comes on in his palce.

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2217: A rare chance for the Irish — with Robbie Keane nearly getting one back. He gets the ball on the left of the penalty area and is in some space. He fires low across the goal but Casillas gets down well and meets the shot with a strong hand. Good effort from the LA Galaxy striker and Ireland captain.

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2214: It is too easy for Spain. Iniesta wins the ball on the halfway line with a challenge and the ball rolls to David Silva. He finds the run of Torres with a great pass and Torres runs on, unopposed and fires low past Given into the corner of the net for his second of the game. It's his last taste of the action, immediately replaced by substitute Cesc Fabregas.

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2211: Spain 3, Ireland 0 (Fernando Torres).

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2206: Javi Martinez is coming on for Spain, replacing Xabi Alonso, who is on a yellow card.

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2204: PaulLogoAP: Fernando Torres< 29th goal pulls him even with Fernando Hierro in 3rd place on Spain

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2158: A great save by Shay Given prevents Spain from getting a third. Arbeloa hits a low pass into the penalty area and the ball falls to Xavi, who pokes the ball on the bounce at the left corner of the goal but Given's hand comes from nowhere to tip it away. Xabi Alonso is booked for Spain after tripping Jonathan Walters as the Irishman tries to turn the Spaniard.

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2152: A nonchalant finish by Silva. He picks up the rebound from a shot that is beaten away by Given. He has three men in front of him and looks like he won't be able to get his shot away, but he simply passes it through them all and past the outstretched hand of the Irish goalkeeper into the net. A clinical finish and it looked like the ball went through the legs of two defenders on its way into the net.

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2150: Spain 2, Ireland 0 (David Silva).

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2135: Iniesta nearly doubles the lead before the break with a half volley just outside the area which Given tips over. It is the last bit of action of a half that Spain has dominated from start to finish. For the possession they have had, Spain should be further ahead than it is but do Ireland look like making them pay for that? Not at all, they just can't get the ball back. The Spanish are relentless in possession and if they carry on like this, only they will be scoring in the second half.

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2131: Half-time: Spain 1, Ireland 0.

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2124: The Irish are struggling to get out of their half and the intricate Spanish passing is a delight to watch. Five minutes left of the first half, still 1-0.

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2122: Ireland's job is nearly made twice as hard by the referee - but not because of a contentious decision. As Keith Andrews is about to turn and run away with the ball, referee Proenca runs straight into him while looking the other way. Andrews falls over and Spain pick up the loose ball but cannot find an end product. The Ireland players are furous with the referee for not stopping the play as Andrews was down and Proenca knows he was a little bit at fault there.

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2112: Xabi Alonso tries his luck from 30 yards after receiving a pass from Xavi from a corner. His shot takes a deflection which lifts it over the bar for another corner. Gerard Pique wins the header from the resulting delivery but it is wide.

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2109: Iniesta goes close to doubling Spain's lead. He collects the ball from Sergio Busquets and creates an angle for a left-footed strike from outside the area. Given palms the ball away though with a stretching save. Good stop from Given but it is all Spain here.

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2102: Spain linking up together nicely, the passing is short and fast and is pulling the Irish defense all over the pitch. They have a lead and know that Ireland will attack them if they have any desire to remain in the competition. Ireland can't attack without the ball though and they have seen very little of it so far.

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2052: Andres Iniesta slides a crisp ball into the path of David Silva, who takes a touch before Richard Dunne comes across with a crunching, but good, challenge. Dunne gets up with the ball at his feet but is caught in possession by Fernando Torres, who steals the ball, skips across and launches the ball past Shay Given with a tremendous finish. Five minutes gone, Spain lead and Torres has answered those critics who slated him after misfiring against Italy.

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2049: GOAL! Spain 1, Ireland 0 (Fernando Torres)

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2045: Ireland gets the game underway.

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2043: It's raining and a bit chilly — and the Irish fans hugely outnumber the Spanish. But can Ireland really pull off what would be a major shock? They'll be out of the tournament if beaten by Spain and need to take at least a point from the clash against the defending champion.

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2015: So, Fernando Torres returns to Spain's team, replacing Cesc Fabregas — the player who scored the world champions' equalizer against Italy in the first match. It means Spain will once again have a recognized striker in its lineup, giving Torres the chance to redeem himself after missing a couple of good chances when he came on as a substitute against the Azzurri. Spain is otherwise unchanged. Ireland's only change is up front, where Simon Cox replaces Kevin Doyle.

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2005: We'll turn our attention to the Spain vs. Ireland match in Gdansk now. Here are the lineups:

Spain: Casillas, Arbeloa, Ramos, Pique, Alba, Busquets, Alonso, Silva, Xavi, Iniesta, Torres. Substitutes: Valdes, Reina, Albiol, Martinez, Juanfran, Pedro, Fabregas, Negredo, Mata, Llorente, Cazorla, Navas.

Ireland: Given, O'Shea, St. Ledger, Dunne, Ward, McGeady, Whelan, Andrews, Duff, Keane, Cox. Substitutes: Westwood, Forde, Doyle, Kelly, McShane, Walters, Gibson, Hunt, O'Dea, Long, Green, McClean.

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1956: Mandzukic was carried off on a stretcher just before the final whistle with a left leg injury. That will be a worry for Croatia coach Slaven Bilic ahead of the Spain game on Sunday. A draw was a fair result as Croatia maintains its unbeaten record against Italy. The 2006 world champions were the better side in the first half but Croatia was dangerous after the interval and could be a dark horse at Euro 2012.

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1951: FULLTIME: Italy 1, Croatia 1

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1945: Into injury time. With Spain its last opponent, Croatia could really do with getting qualification wrapped up early. A draw leaves things up for grabs heading into the final group games.

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1941: Mandzukic sprints forward down the center with options both side of him. He finds Jelavic on the right, who takes a touch before trying to return it to Mandzukic but his pass is intercepted and cleared. Good chance for Croatia to get a shot away there. Will the team get another? Jelavic is off for Eduardo.

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1935: Nine minutes left to play, can either side score a winner? You'd have to say the momentum is now with Croatia having pulled level and improved drastically in the second half. Riccardo Montolivo is booked after catching the back of Mandzukic's head when challenging him for a header.

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1932: Croatia equalizes in the 72nd minute and it's Mario Mandzukic with his third goal of the tournament. His first touch isn't the greatest as he controls a cross from the left but his second makes up for it, lashing the ball in off the near post. Russia's Alan Dzagoev and Germany's Mario Gomez are the other players with three goals so far.

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1927: GOAL! Italy 1, Croatia 1 (Mandzukic)

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1922: With 70 minutes played, the Italians still lead 1-0. If the score stays the same, they would go top of the group — at least for a few hours. Thiago Motta and Mario Balotelli have been replaced by Riccardo Montolivo and Antonio Di Natale for Italy while Ivan Perisic is taken off for Daniel Pranjic for Croatia.

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1918: Italy midfielder Thiago Motta has picked up a yellow card for a tussle with Nikica Jelavic at a Croatia corner. At the other end, Balotelli, who has been quiet in the second half, powers a long-range shot over the crossbar.

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1912: A smoke bomb is holding up play here and it has come from the Croatia fans, landing just next to the pitch. The Croatian FA could face a fine because of the conduct of their supporters.

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1905: Modric has had two chances already after the break. His first effort dribbled through to Buffon; his second was struck much firmer but flies over the bar. It looks like the Tottenham midfielder will be playing further forward this half.

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1901: The teams are back out and the second half is under way. No substitutions yet.

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1852: Before the goal, Pletikosa made a great double save from Marchisio from close range. The goalkeeper was well beaten, though, by Pirlo, who has run the game from central midfield in the first half. He was one of Italy's star players when the team won the 2006 World Cup and he looks to have lost none of his class six years on.

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1846: HALFTIME: Italy 1, Croatia 0

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1842: He's been majestic all match and he's just put the Italians ahead in the 39th minute. Andrea Pirlo curls an exquisite free kick over the wall and into the net at the near post. Pletikosa got a hand to the ball but couldn't keep it out.

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1840: GOAL! Italy 1, Croatia 0 (Pirlo)

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1833: First signs of life from Italy striker Antonio Cassano, who drags a shot wide from an acute angle. Cassano made the headlines in the build-up to the game when he said he hopes there are no homosexual players on the Italy team at the European Championship. Hours later, he issued a statement apologizing that his comments "created controversy and protests from gay associations."

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1825: Still 0-0 after 25 minutes but this is a lively game and there have been some good early chances. Croatia has come back into it after a slow start.

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1818: Penalty shout from Croatia but referee Webb gets this decision spot on. Jelavic falls over as he challenges for a cross with Chiellini but it was the Croatia striker who did the pulling in the first place and is penalized.

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1810: Italy is on top and Claudio Marchisio's shot from around 25 yards and is inches away from nestling in the top corner. Balotelli then smashes a fierce shot straight at goalkeeper Stipe Pletikosa from the edge of the area.

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1806: The enigmatic Mario Balotelli was at the center of things against Spain and he makes his presence felt here early on by controling a cross from the left, turning and shooting just wide with his left foot. That was close. Much of the pre-match talk was about the head-to-head between midfield playmakers Andrea Pirlo of Italy and Luka Modric of Croatia. Pirlo has settled well already.

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1800: Referee is England's Howard Webb, who was in charge of the 2010 World Cup final between Spain and the Netherlands. Italy kicks off.

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1755: Italy is staying with its makeshift defense that coped very well against Spain. That sees midfielder Daniele De Rossi stay at center back after a very impressive performance in that match — he plays despite having a cast on his right arm. Teams are out for the national anthems.

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1748: Here's a tweet from former United States defender Alexi Lalas. (at)AlexiLalas: Ran into a squirrel on my morning run. Argued with him about who Prandelli should start up top. Squirrels love Balotelli.

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1740: Having already beaten Ireland 3-1, Croatia will become the first team to qualify for the quarterfinals if it beats Italy. The Croatians have never lost to their opponents today so the omens are good, although Italy looked handy in the 1-1 draw with Spain on Sunday.

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1732: Here are the lineups for Italy vs. Croatia. Both teams are unchanged from their first games:

Italy: Buffon, Chiellini, De Rossi, Bonucci, Giaccherini, Marchisio, Pirlo, Thiago Motta, Maggio, Cassano, Balotelli. Substitutes: De Sanctis, Sirigu, Ogbonna, Balzaretti, Abate, Di Natale, Barzagli, Borini, Montolivo, Giovinco, Diamanti, Nocerino.

Croatia: Pletikosa, Srna, Corluka, Schildenfeld, Strinic, Rakitic, Vukojevic, Modric, Perisic, Mandzukic, Jelavic. Substitutes: Kelava, Subasic, Simunic, Buljat, Pranjic, Badelj, Versaljko, Dujmovic, Kalinic, Kranjcar, Vida, Eduardo.

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