Ruthless Chile end Spain reign
Del Bosque's holders run out of ideas to exit with whimper
Published 19/06/2014 | 02:30
The empire didn't strike back. Instead, it struck out.
Spain 0 Chile 2
Spain are finished, their World Cup over bar the indignity of a dead-rubber match with Australia next Monday.
This is normally a misery they inflict on other teams, most recently Ireland in Euro 2012, but they will have to go through the motions now after their deficiencies were ruthlessly punished by a turbo-charged Chilean machine that will harbour ambitions of going deep into this tournament and face a showdown for top spot in Group B with Louis Van Gaal's Netherlands.
By suffering their first back-to-back losses in eight years, Vicente Del Bosque's side also become the first defending champions to lose their opening two matches, while the difficulty of retaining is emphasised by their exit making them the third holders in the last four renewals to depart at the group stage following on from France in 2002 and Italy four years ago.
There is a particular sadness about this failure, however, as it brings down the curtain on a remarkable period of success which brought a World Cup and two European Championships to a country that was perennially derided as underachievers.
Considering the envious manner with which other managers surveyed their 23-man selection for this tournament, they now return to a position where they have performed below their capabilities. Not that it should take away from the achievements of the two impressive operations that have already booked their place in the last 16.
Afterwards, Spanish manager Vicente Del Bosque conceded that he would consider his own position. "I never ever thought we would leave the tournament after the first phase," he sighed. "Of course, today is a very sad day for everybody, we are suffering and now we have to think about the future."
In the lengthy post-mortem, Del Bosque will have to consider whether he was too loyal to the mainstays of former glories. Xavi and Gerard Pique were dumped for this fixture after the Dutch thrashing, but the retention of Iker Casillas will be at the top of the agenda as he gifted Chile a second goal which delighted the vocal Chilean support that raised the Maracana volume levels a notch above the Argentinian contribution in their Sunday triumph over Bosnia.
The pivotal nature of this encounter added to the fevered sense of anticipation. Holland's dramatic, but expected victory over Australia earlier in the day made things fairly straightforward for the Spanish. They had to win this match to stay in control of their destiny.
Beforehand, there was a little extra 'action' when a gang of Chilean fans burst into the media centre in search of entry to the stadium, but their advance was foiled.
When the game started, their team also marauded in packs and that frenetic approach almost yielded an early dividend as Javi Martinez, in for Pique, almost turned an Eduardo Vargas effort into his own goal as the striker attempted to finish off Eugenio Mena's cross.
Spain looked to have regrouped, with a half chance falling to Xabi Alonso following a patient spell of passing and a blocked shot from Diego Costa. But just as they seemed to be asserting a degree of control, they were sucker punched.
Alonso was casual in possession and Alexis Sanchez pounced, with a wonderful through ball from Juventus' star Arturo Vidal allowing Charles Aranguiz to square for Vargas who kept his balance as he poked a right footer past the stretching Casillas. Spain were teetering on the brink. 'We were too shy at the start," said Del Bosque. "We weren't brave enough."
Del Bosque's other change from the team which was destroyed by Holland was to bring in Pedro for his Xavi, with a view to adding a bit more pace in wide areas. He had no impact as the red shirts struggled to penetrate the South Americans' rearguard.
By contrast, Chile continued to probe at every opportunity and found that the champions were vulnerable. Before the break, they struck again, although they were helped by two Spanish stalwarts as Alonso tripped Alexis Sanchez before the Barca winger's subsequent free was met with a dreadful punch by Casillas that the grateful Aranguiz scooped back into the net.
Alonso's nightmare was ended at the break with Koke summoned, but Costa's misery was prolonged when a delightful through ball from Andres Iniesta, who should escape the brunt of criticism, was wasted by a ponderous reaction from the Chelsea-bound attacker.
Eventually, Fernando Torres was summoned for the man who will effectively replace him in Stamford Bridge next season. Spain were on top, yet couldn't find a real cutting edge and Torres is no longer the ideal recipient for an SOS call.
Santi Cazorla was duly sent into the fray and twice called Chilean netminder Claudio Bravo into action. But Del Bosque's men were incapable of getting any closer as Chile dropped deeper and invited Spain to pick the lock.
The final minutes were played out in Chilean territory, but the fallen stars simply didn't have the answers and Jorge Sampaoli's charges will now face a Dutch side with the ultimate goal of avoiding Brazil. Spain, on the other hand, just want to get the hell out of here.