Chile 2 Spain 0
Spain’s football empire has fallen.
The European and defending world champions were sent packing from the World Cup tonight, dumped out by a committed Chile side's convincing performance here in Rio's Maracanã stadium.
Beaten 2-0, it marked the team’s first back-to-back defeats in eight years following the 5-1 humiliation by the Dutch last Friday.
After that horror show, Vicente Del Bosque warned he was ready to make changes and was as good as his word. One was widely expected, Javi Martínez coming in for Gerard Piqué who went missing in action as the Spanish defence crumbled against Holland.
But also dropped was Xavi. For so long this team’s conductor, he is now at 34 years the individual expression of a side’s waning prowess. In his place, came Pedro. Chile stuck to their traditional game plan, high-tempo harassment for 90 minutes and always looking to break forward in numbers when they had the ball.
They were aided in sustaining their energy levels by playing in front of another passionate South American crowd. With both sets of supporters in red tops it was at first hard to tell who had turned up in the greater numbers. Any doubts were settled by the extraordinary volume at which the Chilean national anthem rang out around the stadium.
Such was their desperation to see their team one group of ticketless Chileans managed to get past Fifa’s security cordon, careering through the media centre and toppling two temporary walls to be met by the amazed gaze of the world’s press before being hauled away by police. Those Chileans who got to seats continued to make a racket throughout, turning it into a home game.
The players responded with a typically intense performance. Spain might have had more of the ball but they were always harried by the men in white when on it. Chile attacked less than promised but unlike their opponents they made it matter when they did.
The first goal came on the 20th minute when Eduardo Vargas capped off a lightening break after Xabi Alonso lost possession to Alexis Sánchez. Chile's second involved another error from Iker Casillias, who admitted his performance against the Netherlands had been his worst in a Spain shirt. With David De Gea injured he kept his place. In the 43rd minute his side would pay for Vicente Del Bosque's unwillingness to trust Pepe Reina.
In one of his last acts before being withdrawn , Alonso conceded a free just outside the box. Sánchez curled it over the wall and Casillas could only parry straight to Charles Aranguiz in box. The Brazilian-based player quickly got the ball under control and dispatched it past the despairing dive of the Spanish captain.
Again the massed banks of Chileans roared their glee. Not even half time and the world champion’s hopes were hanging by a thread. After his two errors that led to both of Chile’s first-half goals, Alonso was replaced at the interval by Koké as Spain sought a response. There was now more effort and urgency but it was disjointed and lacking in traditional Spanish control.
Mounting signs of tiki-taka’s diminishing returns, highlighted by defeat against the Dutch seemed to have provoked an identity crisis in a side that for years has had one of football’s strongest brands.
Before the game, Del Bosque had promised to match Chile’s intensity but “without losing our identity, although we can also mix another form of playing less common for us but with which we can cause damage.”
Without Xavi they were indeed playing a "less common" football, trying to play a mix of quicker balls, many of them long, up to Diego Costa.
He had chances in both halves but his performance lacked the goal that would have justified the switch. The closest was a bicycle kick across goal that saw Sergio Busquets put the team's clearest chance wide from yards out when following up at the back post.
Costa was withdrawn just before the hour mark to a final chorus of insults. His second game only provided further evidence of his faulty decision making in electing to represent Spain over the country of his birth at the tournament.
Fernando Torres came on but the better chances continued to come Chile’s way with Sánchez and man-of-the-match Eduardo Vargas at the heart of their side’s attacking menace.
Pedro did little to justify the confidence placed in him instead of Xavi and gave way to Santi Carzola, who shortly after he came on had a shot parried by Claudio Bravo. But Chile looked increasingly comfortable sitting on a two goal lead, their covering as fierce in the game's final minutes as the first.
Iniesta, now with Xavi gone his side’s best player, drew a another save from Bravo in the dying minutes. The Chilean fans were by now taunting their rivals with chants of ‘Eliminated! Eliminated!’ as Spain desperately searched to avoid their fate. Torres won a late free kick. Cazorla took it but again Bravo parried.
The final whistle put them out of their misery.
The result all but ends Group B as a contest with both Chile and the Dutch now qualified. They will play each other on Monday to decide the group's winner though will do so without knowing whether misfiring Brazil, playing later that evening, awaits the winner or runner-up.
Not that Chile should care too much. On this form they should fancy their chances against their struggling neighbours.
For the former champions comes the search for what comes next. This performance though provides few clues.
CHILE: 1 Claudio Bravo; 4 Mauricio Isla, 17 Gary Medel, 5 Francisco Silva, 18 Gonzalo Jara, 2 Eugenio Mena; 20 Charles Aranguiz (16 Felipe Gutierrez, 64 mins), 21 Marcelo Diaz; 11 Eduardo Vargas (10 Jorge Valdivia, 85 mins), 8 Arturo Vidal (6 Carlos Carmona, 88 mins), 7 Alexis Sanchez. Yellow cards: Mena, Vidal.
SPAIN: 1 Iker Casillas; 22 Cesar Azpilicueta, 4 Javi Martinez, 15 Sergio Ramos, 18 Jordi Alba; 16 Sergio Busquets, 14 Xabi Alonso (yc) (17 Koke, half-time); 21 David Silva, 6 Andres Iniesta, 11 Pedro (20 Santi Cazorla, 76 mins); 19 Diego Costa (9 Fernando Torres, 64 mins). Yellow card: Alonso.