* Croatia hold Italy, Spain beat Ireland
* Torres scores twice, Mandzukic on target again
* Polish minister wants tougher sentences
(Releads with Spain beating Ireland)
By Timothy Heritage
KIEV, June 14 Fernando Torres scored twice on
his return to the starting lineup as stylish Spain thrashed
Ireland 4-0 on Thursday to go top of Group C with Croatia and
end Irish hopes at Euro 2012.
Croatia had earlier come back to earn a 1-1 draw with Italy
which left the Italians in danger of an early exit after Mario
Mandzukic's 72nd minute strike cancelled out Andrea Pirlo's
curling free-kick from 25 metres in the 39th.
Torres smashed the ball past keeper Shay Given in the fourth
minute and confidently struck his second on the break in the
70th, justifying his inclusion instead of Cesc Fabregas after
the title holders' toothless 1-1 draw with Italy on Sunday.
David Silva had added the second for the world and European
champions by calmly placing the ball wide of a cluster of
defenders in the 49th minute, and Fabregas scored the fourth in
the 83rd after coming off the bench.
Spain and Croatia lead the group on four points, with Italy
down but not out on two, and Ireland no longer in contention
following their 3-1 defeat by the Croats on Sunday.
The headlines off the pitch were stolen by the repercussions
of clashes between Russian and Polish supporters before their
teams drew 1-1 in a Group A match in Warsaw on Tuesday.
Poland's president and sports minister called for tougher
punishment after the first people received what he considered
light sentences over the violence in which 184 people were
detained, most of them Poles.
Poland, co-hosting the tournament with Ukraine, expects
20,000 Russian fans to arrive in Warsaw with tickets for their
team's final group match against Greece on Saturday, twice the
number that came to the game with Poland.
Russia has demanded Poland protect its fans and says it will
appeal against a decision by UEFA to dock its team six points in
qualifying for the next European Championship if their fans
misbehave again after crowd trouble at an earlier match.
Torres quickly made an impact on his recall to the Spanish
side when he was quickest to a loose ball after defender Richard
Dunne tackled Silva. He rounded Stephen Ward and hit an angled
shot high into the net past the helpless Given.
It was his first tournament goal since scoring the winner
against Germany in the Euro 2008 final.
Silva got the second when Given parried an Andres Iniesta
shot into his path, and then played Torres clean through for him
to slot his 30th international goal into the bottom right
corner. He is now Spain's third highest all-time scorer.
Fabregas fired Spain's fourth goal in off a post from a
tight angle nine minutes after replacing Torres, whose name was
chanted by the Spanish fans as the final whistle neared.
Mandzukic was again the hero for Croatia as he scored his
third goal of the tournament after his headed brace against
Ireland. He slammed the ball in from close range after bringing
down an Ivan Strinic cross that Giorgio Chiellini misjudged.
Pirlo's goal had made him the first player to score directly
from a free kick at the European Championship since 2004, but it
was the Italians' only reward for a first half they dominated.
Italy coach Cesare Prandelli said his team should have
wrapped the match up early on.
"We had some good chances in the first half and could have
done better. We missed a bit of energy and grit," he said.
Mario Balotelli was one of the culprits as Italy wasted
several chances and were frustrated by goalkeeper Stipe
Pletikosa, who made a brilliant double save at the feet of
"We weren't good enough in the first half but we regrouped
at halftime and in the second half we dominated and got a
deserved equaliser," Croatia defender Vedran Corluka said.
Croatia, however, could be in trouble after their fans threw
flares onto the field, at one point leaving a pall of smoke
hanging over the penalty area.
RUSSIA TO APPEAL
Russia said they would do all they could to head off any
punishment over their Group A match against the Czech Republic
in Wroclaw last Friday after Russian fans set off and threw
fireworks and displayed illicit banners during the 4-1 triumph.
UEFA, European soccer's governing body, also meted out
punishment to the German and Portuguese football associations
over incidents during a Group B match on Saturday.
The German federation was fined 10,000 euros ($12,600) after
Germany fans threw what appeared to be rolled up pieces of paper
at Portugal players on several occasions during the first half.
The Portuguese association was fined 5,000 euros for
delaying the start of the second half in Lviv.
(Editing by Ed Osmond and Ken Ferris)