"Without a shadow of doubt, this is the best team we have ever played," said Keith Andrews but the Republic of Ireland players felt their heavy defeat was partly self-inflicted.
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The Republic of Ireland players bemoaned the early goal they conceded in each half of their 4-0 defeat against Spain on a night when their hopes of getting through Group C vanished. Yet at the same time they did not hide their pride at the spirit of their supporters at the Arena Gdansk.
Keith Andrews, Republic of Ireland midfielder
Without a shadow of doubt, this is the best team we have ever played. The vast majority of the time, we were chasing shadows. We couldn't get near them, they were just a fantastic side. It is just so really disappointing. You can hear the fans outside, they are an absolute credit to the country, the team and unfortunately we haven't been able to give them what they deserve.
We said it before the game, let's learn our lessons but we shot ourselves in the foot again, silly goals. We didn't learn but in fairness they are just such a top side. Any lapse in concentration and they're going to hurt you.
We're playing for pride, without a shadow of doubt, for the fans, we're playing purely for them and ourselves, our own pride. You know they've come and travelled in their thousands and look, you can hear them now. It's incredible. With seven or eight minutes to go, all you could hear was the Ireland fans and we were losing three or four-nil.
Sean St Ledger, Republic of Ireland defender
They're the best side I've ever played against and the best I think I will play against. But we made it hard for ourselves going 1-0 down early on. When you're playing a side who can keep the ball as well as that you know you have to keep it tight.
The most damaging thing has been conceding so early on in the second half. In the two games, that has been the thing that's killed us. One-nil is tough against Spain, but with a corner, a free-kick or goal on the break you can get back into it. But when it goes to 2-0 and they keep the ball as they do we're up against it. They were well organised, they knew what we were all about, they have got fight, they have got spirit – that's the reason they are world and European champions.
If you look at the fans singing when we were 4-0 down I've never seen anything like it, they have been absolutely brilliant. Now we go into the Italy game and will try and give something back.
Glenn Whelan, Republic of Ireland midfielder
Obviously they are the top team in the world, and you are going to expect that from them but I think the goals that we have conceded haven't been great, just individual errors at the wrong time, and that's what's killing us at the moment. You'd like to think you'd hold out Spain for as long as you can. But after three minutes you're 1-0 down and chasing the game, and it's hard, but I think we dealt with it well in the first half, and then... just tired legs and another sloppy goal to give away to make it 2-0, and it was always going to be hard after that.
The lads' heads are down. It's not nice getting beaten at any time, but on the one hand you have to say well done to Spain, they were a top team, they beat us fair and square. But now we have to obviously put our heads together and go into the Italy game hoping to get something out of it, not just for ourselves but for the fans who have travelled. They have been excellent. They didn't stop singing and giving it all,and we can only be grateful for that, because, well, it's unbelievable. People talk about the Irish, and it's definitely the best support in the world.
Jon Walters, Republic of Ireland striker
We were playing against some of the best players in the world. You're always going to be up against it when you concede an early goal. It is just disappointing that we couldn't give it a right go. How good were Spain tonight? World-class. It's very hard to get close to a team when they play like that and, as I said, they're the best players in the world and they are going to be there or thereabouts come the end of this tournament.
To give an early goal away, it's always going to be difficult and uphill, especially when you're playing against a team like Spain, who can keep the ball for fun and pass it and switch from side to side. They just pick pockets and have a lot of runners. So we tried to keep them at bay as long as we could to give us a fighting chance, but we conceded the early goal – and we were always going to be up against it.
You've got to pick yourselves up and go for a bit of pride against Italy now. We don't want to come out of the tournament with nothing. So, Italy have got something to play for and need to win to go through. So, we’ll be giving it a right go.