Gdansk, Poland – Spain manager Vicente del Bosque gambled on Fernando Torres on Thursday, and it paid off.
Del Bosque started the striker against Ireland, just days after he did not use a forward against Italy, and Torres rewarded his coach with a pair of goals.
David Silva and Cesc Fabregas also scored as Spain rolled to a 4-0 win against overmatched Ireland at rainy Arena Gdansk in Euro 2012.
Spain moved to the top of Group C and Ireland was eliminated from quarterfinal contention. Spain plays Croatia, which also has four points, in its last group match Monday, when Ireland will wrap up its Euros against Italy.
"You have to enjoy every moment. ... I had the luck to start the match, and score goals and enjoy it with the team," Torres said.
"We saw the normal Spanish team again."
With all-time leading scorer David Villa out of the Euro event with an injury, Del Bosque decided not to start a striker in a 1-1 draw against Italy.
Torres needed just 4 minutes against Ireland to make his claim for a starting role for the remainder of the tournament. He scored in the fourth minute, and again in the 70th to move into a tie for the tournament scoring lead.
He played in just three of Spain's Euro qualifying matches.
Now, the man who scored the only goal in the Euro 2008 final win over Germany could have hit his stride at the perfect time. Although Ireland did not put up much of a fight.
Just minutes into the game, Torres collected a loose ball near the edge of the penalty area and drove to the right side, where he fired to the near post with a high shot to score past Irish goalie Shay Given.
Spain continued to control the match, as Ireland had just a few touches in its offensive end, and Silva erased all doubt early in the second half.
Silva latched onto a rebound in the middle of the area, opened space against a trio of Ireland defenders, Sean St Ledger, John O'Shea and Richard Dunne, then tucked a low shot into the bottom-left corner past a diving Given.
Twenty minutes later, Silva turned provider as he sent Torres in alone against Given and the Chelsea man finished to the bottom-right corner in the 70th.
Midfielder Fabregas, who lost his starting job to Torres, showed he could be back on the field later in the tournament when he came off the bench to bag his second goal of the tournament in the 83rd. He also scored against Italy.
"They are such a top side that any lapse of concentration and they're going to punish you," Ireland midfielder Keith Andrews said.