RIO DE JANEIRO – Gp B: Spain 0, Chile 2 —- Spain suffered the humiliating indignity of an instant exit from the World Cup as the world and European champions subsided colourlessly against the ‘other’ Roja at Maracana, where they came to grief last year against Brazil writes KEIR RADNEDGE.
Coach Vicente Del Bosque’s frown grew ever deeper as his team failed to achieve an early breakthrough, gave away two sloppy goals then failed to make up any of the distance in the second half . Holland’s victory over Australia earlier in the day meant that defeat left Spain with nothing to play for in their final group match against the Socceroos, who are also thus homeward bound.
When Spain lost 3-0 to Brazil in the final of the warm-up Confederations Cup last year critics suggested that the reality of the World Cup in Brazil – where Spain finished fourth in 1950 – would focus their minds.
However the disaster of the opening 5-1 thrashing by Holland in Salvador had revealed that concerns about tactics and team selection were no mere passing fantasies. Brazilian fans, of course, insisted that Spain were being punished by the football gods for ‘stealing away’ Brazilian-born Diego Costa to play for them instead of for the land of his birth.
Costa was jeered by local fans throughout the Holland game and again in the opening exchanges against the Chileans. Once again, he brought nothing to the party.
The story could have been different. Spain might have taken the lead but Xabi Alonso’s shot from close range in the12th minute was superbly blocked by keeper Claudio Bravo who went on to enjoy a superbly secure game.
The incident was crucial. Seven minutes later Alonso gave away the ball in midfield, Chile caught a re-cast Spanish defence wide open and Eduardo Vargas shot them ahead.
If that was a painful moment for Spain’s goalkeeper-captain Iker Casillas – winning his national record 156th cap – this was as nothing compared with what was to come. Just before half-time Alexis Sanchez curled a free kick around the wall, Casillas merely pushed the ball forward and Charles Aranguez fired the ball back past him with the outside of his right foot.
Del Bosque, having dropped Xavi Hernandez from midfield and Gerard Pique from the centre of defence, made a further change when he brought on Koke at halftime for the misfiring Alonso.
Within eight minutes of the restart Sergio missed a gilt-edged opportunity to pull one goal back when the ball fell to him on the edge of the goal area but he snatched at it too soon and the ball ricocheted off his shin and wide of Bravo’s right-hand post.
In the Champions League Final, a month ago, Real Madrid had played right through into stoppage time before rescuing the game and, ultimately, the crown. This time for Casillas, Sergio Ramos & Co there was to be no such redemption.
After six years, two European titles and one World Cup, the reign of Spain fell . . . in Maracana.