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Steven Reid: You wait for 10 years and it's gone in 3 minutes

We were outclassed in every department last night, but when we reflect on this tournament it will be Sunday's defeat to Croatia where the damage was done.

The difference in class between Spain and Ireland was so evident and, while the lads fought bravely, you can only hold on for so long against a side of the world and European champions' ability.

We shouldn't forget how well the team have done to reach the tournament, but when you come against these teams you are stepping on to a different plane. The Croats had three or four world-class players and Spain were on another level altogether. It has been a reality check, we are back down to earth and now we just need to get the Italy game out of the way and start to think about the 2014 World Cup qualifiers. We have been brave and courageous, but ultimately it hasn't been good enough.


Looking back to Sunday, we conceded three goals at the worst possible time and then last night we did it again. We were backed up against the wall with an early goal and they hit us again after half-time.

In his role as a television pundit Roy Keane called it; you wait 10 years to qualify for a major tournament and then you concede within three minutes of your opening game. We never recovered from that and we haven't shown what we can do in either game.

We shot ourselves in the foot again. I wrote in yesterday's column that I was worried if Spain went with a striker, but I also said I'd be happy if Fernando Torres started -- but the opening goal was the Torres of old and the Chelsea striker took the strike so well.

An early goal like that is a kick in the teeth. It will deflate you. Going into the game, the message would be to keep it solid and tight in the opening exchanges. The early goal changes that, but Ireland kept a similar shape and although Spain dominated possession for the rest of the half, the Ireland team were dogged and brave, but needed to get more bodies forward.

I am not one of Giovanni Trapattoni's biggest fans given the dispute we had, but having managed to get us here, it was fair for him to stay loyal to the tried and trusted players. Looking at it in the cold light of that defeat, the lads have lacked that bit of quality and will come away from Poland disappointed with the performances.

Robbie Keane and Simon Cox are similar players, there are no two ways about it. My West Brom team-mate was brought in for his work-rate and he got a decent left-footed shot away in the opening stages, while he created an opening for Robbie at the end of the half. It was apparent at half-time that Ireland needed the impetus of Jonathan Walters and he made that change.

As the game settled, Spain were looking to keep possession for long periods and they didn't go for the killer ball too early. It is tiring when you are playing without the ball for that long time, but it was nice to see the lads get stuck in and Keith Andrews was like a rash at times.

He got among them, with one tackle early on Andres Iniesta showed Ireland's intent. You need to do that and it was something Ireland did not do against Croatia. If they had done it on Sunday, who knows what the situation might have been?

This could be the end for some of my former team-mates and it would be a sad way for them to bow out. The lads have not performed like they did in qualification and they will be so disappointed.

Maybe there is one more tournament in them, but it has been 10 years since the last one. Hopefully it won't be as long again.

Irish Independent