By Dan Harrison
Shay Given and Richard Dunne were on the wrong end of a Spanish masterclass as the Republic of Ireland's Euro 2012 hopes were dashed in Gdansk.
The boys in green were eliminated from the tournament with a game still to play after a crushing 4-0 defeat at the hands of the reigning world and European champions.
The Villa duo were once again named in Giovanni Trapattoni's starting XI for the Group C showdown as the Republic looked to bounce back from Sunday's 3-1 loss to Croatia.
It was always going to be a tall order for the Irish against a Spain team packed with superstars such as Xaxi, Andres Iniesta and Fernando Torres.
But their task was made even tougher when Torres fired a powerful effort into the roof of the net inside the opening four minutes.
From there on Spain dominated possession although Ireland dug in to restrict Vicente Del Bosque's men during the remainder of the first period.
Given held a David Silva strike while at the other end Dunne headed off target.
After the break, though, Spain's class began to shine through.
Manchester City attacker Silva calmly converted a low shot past Given on 49 minutes before playing in Chelsea's Torres who converted his second with 20 minutes remaining.
Given made two fine saves in the second period - firstly palming away an Iniesta shot before acrobatically saving Xavi's attempt.
However, there was nothing he could do about the rasping cross-shot from substitute Cesc Fabregas, who underlined Spain's superiority with a fourth goal on 83 minutes.
Trapattoni's men are now playing solely for pride in Monday's game against Italy but the manager wants his players to bow out on a high.
"It is my duty to make sure we finish with our heads held high," he said.
"If Italy are to make the quarter-finals, it has to be down to the fact they played well and through their quality and attitude. We need to do our duty.
"The mistakes we made here means we have suffered a bit of a psychological blow.
"We don't see fear in training or in our preparations for the tournament. I don't see tensions in the side.
"For the second time, we conceded an early goal and again it throws any tactical plan out of the window."
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