This report originally appeared in the Independent
Spain 0-2 Chile
Miguel Delaney, Maracana
Too tired, too slow and too few points. Spain’s World Cup is over, and an era ends. Vicente Del Bosque’s team have become only the fifth defending champions in history to go out in the group stage, but the first the lose their opening two games and thereby the quickest to ever go home. They are also the first team eliminated from 2014. That sums up the scale of the fall almost as much as the poverty of their play. Chile, as they promised before the game, have made history.
The South Americans also consigned Spanish dominance to the past with a display that brilliantly outpaced their famous philosophy and made it look brutally outdated.
The contrasts seem to be confirmed within minutes. Spain embarked on a relatively sedate spell of passing, only for Chile to snap at the ball and tear at their defence. It caused instant panic, not too dissimilar from the chaos the Dutch created any time they got near the Spanish box last Friday. Arturo Vidal nutmegged Javi Martinez in the box and, just as Eduardo Vargas seemed set to finish, Xabi Alonso took it off his toe… but almost put it into his own net.
Again, chaos. It was a warning, but also a sign.
The fact Martinez was involved indicated that Spain’s problems were perhaps more profound than the choice of personnel. Del Bosque’s side did temporarily recover some of their old confidence, thanks to some composed passing. That at last illustrated that the decision to drop a declined Xavi was not mistaken. For a time, it was Chile forced into errors.
One dreadful pass from Marcelo Diaz needlessly gifted David Silva and Diego Costa the ball and so much space, only for the forward to take it too far then hit a wayward shot. Andres Iniesta collected and the ball came back to Alonso, but goalkeeper Claudio Bravo was equal to it.
Soon, Chile recovered their balance, and upended Spain’s. They certainly left a line of Spanish defenders on the ground as, within four minutes, the South American side surged into the lead.
It was a goal at once glorious and awful. Every Chilean touch was brilliant, every Spanish attempt at a tackle hapless. Arturo Vidal and Alexis Sanchez sleekly worked the ball through to Charles Aranguiz, who cut back for Vargas to cleverly finish.
The raucous Chile fans erupted again, Spain were quietened by what was by now their horror situation: they had to chase the game, under severe pressure from the stakes, but also leaving themselves susceptible to the pace of Sanchez.
One wild Alonso shot revealed their anxiety; a poor Costa finished underlined their lack of edge. By then, there was an impotent toil to their play so reminiscent of France in 2002.
Chile displayed more life and vigour in everything they did. While Spain struggled to generate momentum, the South Americans were winning flying challenges and effortlessly pulling off nutmegs.
The second goal summed it all up, right down to an Iker Casillas error. While Spanish displayed panicked hesitation, Chile emphatically seized the initiative. The goalkeeper punched a free-kick anywhere he could, Aranguiz powered it precisely into the corner.
Costa could not replicate such accuracy at the other end. The Chelsea striker has provoked much debate, from his eligibility to his suitability, but the bottom line here is that he was not fully fit. That was emphasised straight away in the second half, as he squandered the kind of chance he scored all too easily at Atletico Madrid.
Costa did display some of his supreme bustle moments later on, with an impressively improvised bicycle kick to set up Sergio Busquets just yards from the goal.
It was the wrong player, however, and this was the wrong finish. Somehow, Busquets missed.
It was another sign.
The oddity was that Spain had at that point more than enough chances to win the game well. The reality was that they still didn’t deserve to.
Costa eventually went off for Fernando Torres to a chorus of boos, which seemed to sum it all up. Del Bosque had so much talent on the bench and so much depth… but selected a faded star as a saviour.
Salvation didn’t seem set to arrive. Instead, Chile kept delivering dangerous balls in the Spanish half, with Sanchez powering through them in the stark manner of Arjen Robben. It brought even more chaos.
Spain could do nothing like that to Chile. More passes were moved around the box, more shots were sent just wide, but there was never an actual sense it was close.
There was only more laboriousness. Substitute Santi Cazorla attempted to control the ball in a dangerous position but only succeeded in falling over it.
Spain have fallen from their perch. One of the greatest sides of all time have suffered one of the most dismal endings.
Spain: Casillas; Azpilicueta, Martinez, Ramos, Alba; Busquets, Alonso (Koke 45); Silva, Iniesta, Pedro; Costa (Torres 63)
Chile: Bravo; Medel, Silva, Jara; Isla, Aranguiz (Guitierez 63), Diaz, Mena, Vidal (Carmona 85); Vargas (Valdivia 84), Sanchez