By Kelvin YapFollow @@plevyakin
Spain were excellent, yes. They played brilliant tiki-taka football, yes. They recorded the largest victory in the tournament so far, yes. They set a new record for most passes in a match at the Euros with 859 passes, breaking the previous record of 778, yes.
However, it was against a technically-poor and error-prone Ireland side who handed them the victory.
Not to be a wet blanket and discredit Spain's win or Fernando Torres' excellent brace - they did wonderfully well to earn the win. I'm simply taking up the role of devil's advocate here, pointing out the potential pitfalls for the defending champions for when they inevitably face tougher opponents in the latter stages.
Del Bosque's corrections
Before the match, Vicente Del Bosque vociferously defended the strikerless 4-6-0 formation he set out against Italy in the previous match but kudos to him, he was not as hardheaded as to go with the same formation simply to prove his point.
Torres was handed a spot in the starting lineup in a very fluid 4-3-3 formation where the shape looked like a very high 4-5-1 at times with the Spanish spearhead making constant runs behind the Irish defence.
It was a major improvement with the Chelsea man in the side - he constantly hung around the last defender and tried to find space to stretch play vertically up the pitch and allow Spain to pour more players into the Ireland half.
After two defensive errors in their last match against Croatia, Ireland were again undone by more mistakes against Spain and ironically, the calamitous defending actually came from their attacking orders.
For the first goal, Richard Dunne dawdled on the ball outside the six-yard box and Torres capitalised on it to speed pass Stephen Ward and score an early goal. Credit to the Chelsea striker for pouncing on the opportunity, but world-class defenders are not so lax in possession on the edge of their six-yard box - they would usually hoof it clear at the first touch instead.
For the second goal, the Spain attack came from a botched clearance down the middle before Andres Iniesta's parried shot fell to David Silva, who excellently jinked past three defenders before rolling the ball into goal. It was a lovely bit of skill by Silva, but he can't be expecting so much time and space against better defenders like the England back four. Even then, the chance to score should not have appeared in the first place (which will be explained later as well).
For the third goal, Ward committed the defender's cardinal sin - surrendering possession as the last man. Silva took no prisoners and set Torres free on goal, but someone like Daniele De Rossi would never have lost the ball so easily.
The fourth goal was utterly ridiculous. There were seven Ireland players against Cesc Fabregas in the box, yet somehow the Barcelona man was allowed the time and space to collect and power the ball past Given from a narrow angle. Although Fabregas should be given credit for the brilliant finish, it's hard to imagine that happening against a more alert defence.
It all speaks of Spain's ability to force defensive errors by frustrating the opponents with their passing movements, but like their previous game against Italy showed, a disciplined defence will not fall into the trap.
Improper counter attacks
The first three goals stemmed from Trapattoni's biggest mistake - he tried to get his players to build play from the back (as opposed to hoofing the ball up field), which led to the defenders trying to pass the ball to each other and consequentially making the mistakes which led to the goals.
That is a big no-no for counter-attacking teams (of which Ireland fit the bill with their physical players like Simon Cox, Jon Walters and James McClean).
Sides that look to counter-attack usually have a pre-mediated set of instructions for their players.
For example, their defenders would be told to concentrate their long clearances to a flank and their striker(s) would position themselves to chase the ball down the agreed side of the pitch (this would have prevented the second goal, where the goal came from a clearance right down the crowded middle of the park).
After the early goal, Del Bosque's side realised that Ireland were simply too poor technically and forced them into more errors with an easy-pressing game.
The good thing about Spain's pressing is that they didn't have to harass Ireland across the pitch - the front line simply had to herd the ball back to one flank (for example, Aiden McGeady on the left), force the winger to pass the ball backwards to the full-back (Ward) and seal off his immediate passing routes.
It was only a matter of time before he panicked and lost the ball, and the third goal came because of that.
In summary, Ireland were simply not good enough to play such a technical game against the masters themselves. They stood a better chance hoofing the ball up and chasing it a la Stoke City.
Trapattoni's first right move - fighting Spain's slow-changing attack
Now, to the delicious part where Trapattoni figured out Spain's weaknesses and tried to impose it on his gameplan - only to be let down by his players.
We know that Trapattoni is something of a legendary character in the managerial circle. He's so experienced that Cesare Prandelli, Italy's current 54-year-old manager, actually played under him as a youngster in Juventus back in the late 1970s.
He sharply spotted two ways, both defensively and offensively, to beat Spain.
First, Ireland kept a good shape on the back foot when facing the passing-based Spain side in open play (minus the errors). Trapattoni set two layers of players, the first one made up of the midfielders and the second one of defenders, against the Spain midfielder (for example, Iniesta) holding the ball up a flank.
This limited Iniesta's space and short-passing options, although it left Spain's player on the opposite flank (Silva) unmarked. Despite having one man almost constantly free there, Spain did not make use of him due to their reluctance in pinging a cross-field pass.
For example, Germany would have taken three passes and all of five seconds to switch from one flank to another via the Muller-Ozil-Schweinsteiger-Podolski combo.
Spain had to go something like Silva-Xavi-Silva -Xavi-Busquets-Silva-Xavi-Alonso-Busquets-Alonso-Xavi-Iniesta to switch sides in the game, taking more than half a minute to do so, rather than going Silva-Alonso-Iniesta, which would have taken a fraction of the time.
They do have long-range passing personnel in Alonso and Xavi - but Del Bosque's instruction was to keep the ball on the ground.
In a way, it showed the confidence that La Roja have in their steady, inexorable passing movements to breach defences, but it also highlighted a certain stubbornness to resist an option which could have helped them stretch the play horizontally much more easily.
This defensive method worked well for Trapattoni as Ireland did not concede any goals from Spain switching flanks. Instead, they were exposed by preventable mistakes as mentioned above.
If other teams (like France) manage to set an extra man to win the ball off the Spanish player, Spain's reluctance to play the ball cross-field would see them be over-crowded and lose possession too easily.
Trapattoni's second right move - making use of Spain's slow-building counterattack
The second weakness is Spain's counterattack.
Spain are stereotyped as a quick-passing team but when the chance to break actually came to Iniesta in the game, only two players (Torres and Silva) were charging up to support him while the rest were just jogging behind.
It's also interesting to see that Torres and SIlva were the only two Spanish players on the pitch that ply their trade in the Barclays Premier League. This speaks of the reputation of England's top flight as the fastest in the world, whereas La Liga players seem to be more inclined to take a step back and decide what the best thing to do next is.
This meant Trapattoni dared to commit more men up front in the knowledge he had sufficient cover at the back, which is something that Spain's previous opponents failed to do.
Spain had three chances to break on the counter after Irish set-pieces, but none of them bore fruit simply because there were not enough people up in support.
Ireland had the courage to push forward as a group and recover in time, just that they lacked the technical skills to make their chances count.
A better organised opponent might have thrown the extra man forward to attack Spain knowing that there would be enough time to recover swiftly and we know that Spain's backline isn't the best in the world - the strongest aspect of their defensive steadiness comes from the sheer amount of possession they enjoy.
Again, with a more clinical team, this extra man may make the difference in breaking through the Spanish defence.
Spain made a statement for themselves as a force to be reckoned by showing everyone what they are capable of when they are on top of the game. For all their brilliance, the reigning world champions do have chinks in their armour and Del Bosque's side will do well to keep their feet on the ground.
Conversely, if the coach manages to make slight tweaks to erase the minor imperfections in his game plan, Spain could gain two very potent weapons for their attack - which may be just what they need to become the first side in history to win back-to-back European Championship crowns.
For more tactical insights and updates, you can follow Kelvin's Twitter account @plevyakin