Spain crashes out of World Cup as Chile seals Round of 16 ticket
JUN 18, 2014 5:00p ET
Chile reminded the planet that this year's World Cup is a South American tournament, knocking out the defending champions with a 2-0 victory over Spain at Rio de Janeiro. First half goals from Eduardo Vargas and Charles Aranguiz condemned the giants, putting a bitter coda on a golden era that had seen the Spanish dominate global football on Wednesday.
With the result, Chile joined Holland in the knockout stage, and there will be a fight now between the two to finish first. Australia, who had battled bravely earlier on Wednesday against the Dutch but lost, 3-2, are also heading for the exit.
Despite boasting some of the grandest names in the game -- Andres Iniesta, Xabi Alonso, Iker Casillas -- Spain became just the latest defending champs to crash and burn at the group stage. Other champions have crashed out of this Cup; France in 2002, Italy in both 1950 and 2010. Even Brazil stumbled in 1966 -- but of course, that was in the days before the expanded tournament we have today. But no champion to date had flamed out in such spectacular fashion. Spain allowed seven goals and lost two straight games at the World Cup, with only a whimper of a reply against the Netherlands.
''I only ask fans for forgiveness, we did everything we could,'' said Casillas, who lifted the World Cup trophy four years ago.
Spain, of course, coughed five of those goals up in the opener, and thus came into the match badly wounded after that 5-1 mauling at the hands of Holland. Despite calls for wholesale changes, and the benching of the erratic goalkeeper Casillas, manager Vicente del Bosque promised no major changes -- and indeed, he only switched out Xavi and Gerard Pique, opting for Pedro and Javi Martinez. It was a brave call, sticking with his regulars -- and it failed him badly.
Looking hungrier and faster, Chile simply harassed the vaunted pliers of tiki-taka off the field in front of raucous support at the Maracana. Xabi Alonso, usually so important in the midfield, was dreadful, missing passes, challenging clumsily, and coughing the ball up twice on plays that directly led to Chilean goals. His performance was so poor that he would be subbed off at the half, but not before deep damage was done.
Chile had not beat Spain in ten attempts, but when they got on the board first, it looked like it would be their day. Vargas opened the scoring for Chile in the 20th minute, finishing off a great bit of play from Alexis Sanchez and Charles Aranguiz. Xabi coughed the ball up, allowing Chile to swarm forward, Aranguiz set the ball on a plate for Vargas and as Iker Casillas came out to try to sweep the ball away, Vargas coolly touched it around him and slammed it into the heart of the goal.
Spain looked shocked by the goal, and the recriminations immediately started, with Pedro and Xabi jawing at one another, and Andres Iniesta immediately trying to shoulder the burden all by himself.
Hope for Spain was extinguished before the break, when Xabi rashly fouled Sanchez to set up a dangerous free-kick. Sanchez slammed the ball right at the keeper, but Casillas inexplicably parried it straight out, where Aranguiz was waiting to slide it back past him into the net. The look of disbelief on both Aranguiz's and Casillas' faces was striking: one couldn't believe he'd been handed such a gift; the other couldn't believe he'd screwed up such monumental fashion, again.
Part of Spain's problem was that they had no one who could score. Diego Costa was given a set of chances, but looking distinctly short of full fitness, he failed to have any impact on the game. One shot his the side net, another he could not get out from in-between his laces. A third that potentially could have changed the tide of this game, in the 48th minute, was badly scuffed when he had only keeper Claudio Bravo to beat.
And Spain's ill-fortune -- or perhaps that was ineptitude -- was summed up by Sergio Busquets in the 53rd when he made what will go down as the miss of the tournament. Costa sailed in an acrobatic overhead kick that floated to Busquets alone at the far post. Bravo was yards away, and helpless. And instead of tapping it into the net, Busquets pushed it well wide -- then collapsed to the turf in agony.
That miss ended what had been a Spanish flurry, and with their spirit broken, del Bosque's men simply played the game out, resigned to the fate and public flaying that awaits them back in Madrid.
Del Bosque says the loss would bring ''consequences,'' but said changes shouldn't be made in haste. The veteran Spanish coach says ''we need to look at what's best for Spanish football, including myself.''
''We have no excuses,'' del Bosque added. ''We were too slow, timid from the start today. It's a sad day for all of the players. Time to think about the future.''
The game had a surreal start with about one hundred Chilean fans invading the press room at the Maracana. A glass door was shattered and two walls were knocked down before police intervened. Security at the Cup has becoming a growing issue, with other incidents reported; there was no comment from Brazilian police at press time.
Spain: Iker Casillas, Cesar Azpilicueta, Jordi Alba, Sergio Ramos, Javi Martinez, Sergio Busquets, Xabi Alonso (Koke, 46), Andres Iniesta, David Silva, Pedro Rodriguez (Santi Cazorla, 76), Diego Costa (Fernando Torres, 64).
Chile: Claudio Bravo, Mauricio Isla, Eugenio Mena, Francisco Silva, Gary Medel, Gonzalo Jara, Charles Aranguiz (Felipe Gutierrez, 64), Marcelo Diaz, Arturo Vidal (Carlos Carmona, 88), Alexis Sanchez, Eduardo Vargas (Jorge Valdivia, 85).
-- Information from The Associated Press and Jonathan Wilson contributed to this report.