CURITIBA – Gp B: Australia 0, Spain 3
—- Outgoing world champions Spain avoided the ignominy of finishing their World Cup campaign bottom of Group B after claiming their first victory of the campaign over Australia in Curitiba.
Goals from David Villa, Fernando Torres and Juan Mata prevented La Roja from suffering a third successive loss for the first time since 1991.
Villa scored the opener when he flicked in Juanfran’s cross, before Chelsea’s Torres fired in the second. Mata slid in the third from fellow substitute Cesc Fabregas’s lofted pass.
Spain thus finished third in the table with three points after one win and two defeats, while Australia finish bottom.
During the opening 30 minutes, Vicente Del Bosque’s Spain played like a side bewildered by the events of their opening two games.
Their play was characterised by misplaced passes, uncertainty in defence and a lack of bite in the final third.
But veteran Villa, whose inclusion was one of seven changes, eased those concerns with a familiar flicked finish nine minutes before the break to cap a move that was typical of Spain in their glory years of 2008, 2010 and 2012.
Andres Iniesta threaded a pass down the right to overlapping full-back Juanfran. The Atletico Madrid played squared to Villa, whose clever finish outfoxed keeper Mat Ryan.
It was the 32-year-old’s ninth goal in World Cups and his 59th in total in what will be his 97th and final game for Spain. Villa was later substituted, head bowed, and was consoled by his team-mates on the bench.
Spain improved tenfold after the break as Australia – with eight of their starters aged 26 and under – tired as they attempted to break up Spain’s trademark tiki-taka exchanges.
After increasing the pressure, Del Bosque’s men eventually doubled their lead in the 69th minute when Iniesta’s ball split the defence and found Torres, who sidefooted in. That was the Chelsea forward’s first World Cup goal since 2006.
The final goal of Spain’s campaign came eight minutes from the end. This time it was Fabregas who was the provider.
The Barcelona midfielder, who had a falling out with Del Bosque during the build-up to the match, played a lovely lofted ball to Manchester United’s Mata at the far post. The midfielder, making his first appearance of the tournament, barely looked up before poking the ball under the body of Ryan.
Manchester City’s David Silva, who was also a substitute, went close in stoppage time as his side bid farewell to a disastrous Brazil 2014 campaign with a flourish.