Spain’s era of domination came to an end Wednesday night at the Maracana in Rio de Janeiro. The World and double European Champions became the first team to be eliminated from the 2014 World Cup after losing 2-0 tonight, to a determined and talented Chilean team.
Spain were trying to shake off the effects of the 5-1 drubbing that they suffered at the hands of the Netherlands in their first Group B game five days ago, but it was clear early on that the great Spain team we had all come to know and admire in recent years, was not going to suddenly turn up at Estadio do Maracana.
Chile were coming off a 3-1 win over scrappy and underrated Australia, and playing in front of a virtual home crowd, Chile were determined to give their supporters something to cheer about.
That they did with an inspired performance, that surely had much to do with Spain’s uncharacteristically inept passing. Xabi Alonso was among Spain’s biggest culprits and it was the Real Madrid man’s wayward effort that sparked Chile’s opening goal in the 19th minute.
Eduardo Vargas was the scorer after taking a fine feed from Charles Aranguiz, controlling in traffic and calmly slotting his shot past Iker Casillas in Spain’s goal.
Casillas was not at fault on that goal, but after enduring a shocker versus the Netherlands, it was at least somewhat surprising that Vicente Del Bosque elected to stay with his long term number one.
Before the half was over Del Bosque would have cause to regret his loyalty to Casillas, but by then it was probably too late. Following a foul by Alonso, Casillas punched an Alexis Sanchez shot straight up the middle, when catching the ball, or punching it wide seemed relatively simple options. The rebound fell to Aranguiz and Spain were in a 2-0 hole in the 43rd minute.
Del Bosque only made two changes to the side that was so poor against the Netherlands, replacing Gerard Pique and Xavi with Javi Martinez and Pedro at the start.
After his miserable first half Alonso would join his illustrious colleagues on the bench, replaced by Koke. Spain came out of the traps well at the restart and it seemed as though the great champions might have a comeback in them.
With Spain buzzing around the Chile goal it looked as if the South American’s defensive posture might come back to haunt them. It should have in the 53rd minute when Diego Costa bicycle kicked a pass to a wide open Busquets. Just a few yards from goal, Busquets was greeted with an empty net, but somehow he mishit his shot and the chance was gone.
That bicycle kick had been Costa’s lone positive contribution to the match, and indeed Spain’s World Cup effort, and the Brazilian born and raised Costa must surely be asking himself why he elected to reject his own country to play in Brazil 2014 for Spain.
The Busquets miss effectively ended Spain’s hopes, and with this loss Spain join five previous defending World Cup Champions to be eliminated at the group stage. Most recently 2006 Champs Italy fell at the first hurdle in South Africa and France were similarly unable to mount much of a defence in 2002.
This Spain team will likely see quite a few departures as some of its aging stars step away from the international game, but they leave an enormous legacy behind them for future teams to aspire to.
La Furia Roja extinguished Spain’s reputation as the best team never to win a major trophy by winning the 2008 and 2012 Euro Championship’s and then the 2010 World Cup.
They accomplished this with a precise passing game that came to be called tiki taka, so it was especially surprising to see Spain turn the ball over so often in this loss to Chile.
Now Spain head home to an answer questions on their demise from unhappy nation after a final, meaningless match against Australia. Meanwhile Chile and the Netherlands will play for the top spot in Group B, the spot that was supposed to be Spain’s, before that duo move on to the round of 16.