SWAPPING SHIRTS with the stars of the Spanish side was not on the agenda for Stephen Ward after last night's masterclass of football in Gdansk.
All he took home as a souvenir was an example of how international football can be played, Ward admitting that Ireland were outclassed by the stunning Spaniards.
"They taught us a lesson in terms of how the modern game is played," Ward confessed to the Evening Herald after the game.
"There is no shame in losing to a good side, and Spain are a great team, but we have so much to learn," added Ward, who declined the chance to swap jerseys after the match.
"I didn't bother with the swapping shirts thing. Last night was not the time for that, I just wanted to get onto the team bus and get away from there so I could reflect on what happened and what is next for us.
"People maybe expected us not to win the tournament. I think we're the lowest-ranked side here at the finals but I don't think we expected to lose so badly and it hurts that we are the first team to go home from the tournament.
"You look at who their players play for -- Real Madrid, Barcelona, Chelsea, Manchester City, some of the best sides in Europe. They have an infrastructure in Spain, they have a way of playing and everything about it is quality.
"Maybe if we had a league in Ireland that was on a par with the Spanish league we'd have a chance.
"They have the players in their team who can play a certain way. They play that kind of football week in, week out, for Barca and Real Madrid and we don't have players like that.
"We want to improve as players and as a team and achieve as much as we can with the Irish team, but maybe we will never reach the levels that those Spanish players have reached.
"You'd love to think that Ireland can start producing players like that, I'd love to see us getting to that stage.
"We are a good side, we have not turned into a bad side overnight," added Wolves man Ward.
"We are all hurting. We came here to Poland with high hopes, but it's been so tough.
"The first game was really hard on us as we didn't get any luck against Croatia and things didn't go our way, but last night we just came up against world-class opposition.
"Spain could do that to any team. It wasn't just us, we're not the first team to be on the receiving end of a result like that against Spain and we won't be the last.
"We don't think we are four goals worse than them but they were just a good side last night."
Ward had a close eye of the first Spanish goal as Fernando Torres picked up on the bouncing ball after Richard Dunne's tackle. The Chelsea man ghosted past Ward as if he wasn't there and finished past Shay Given.
"I couldn't touch Torres or he would have gone down and they'd have had a penalty," Ward says.
"We were a bit unlucky as Richard Dunne slipped slightly when he went in for the tackle and the ball broke for Torres.
"Shay said that Torres' shot was gone past him before he even got his hands up.
"They are a class side, it's just so disappointing to lose so heavily.
"We have conceded seven in two games, but hopefully we can get a good result against Italy on Monday for starters.
"We all need to take something away from this tournament and see if we can learn."