Spain’s defence of their World Cup title has come to a dramatic end before a week of the tournament is out.
Needing at least a point to keep any hope of progressing beyond the group stage alive, Spain crumbled to a 2-0 loss against an impressive Chile side. Two first half goals did the damage.
Cesar Azpilicueta started at right-back for the world and European champions and completed the 90 minutes. Fernando Torres replaced Diego Costa with a little under half an hour remaining, while Cesc Fabregas remained an unused substitute.
After losing their first game 5-1 to the Netherlands, and having seen the Dutch beat Australia earlier in the day, the Spanish knew that at the very least they required a point but that realistically all three were necessary.
Not long after Xabi Alonso had a close-range shot saved Chile took the lead. It was Alonso that had the ball pinched off him in midfield and as Chile swept forward Charles Aranguiz cleverly teed up Eduardo Vargas who rounded Iker Casillas and slotted home. Nineteen minutes had been played.
Costa then set up Alonso at the other end but the Real Madrid midfielder thrashed over. Costa had a chance of his own but volleyed wide with his left foot and by the interval Spain trailed by two. Casillas could only punch an Alexis Sanchez free-kick back into danger where Aranguiz took a touch and prodded the ball in high.
Spain improved after the interval, during which Koke replaced Alonso. Costa had a first real clear sight of goal but his shot was blocked, and then the striker acrobatically hooked the ball back across the six-yard box where Sergio Busquets contrived to volley wide with the goal at his mercy.
Torres replaced Costa on 63 minutes as Vicente Del Bosque sought to freshen up his attack but against the hard-working Chileans they could not find a breakthrough. In fact, it was the South Americans who came closest to netting the game’s third goal, Mauricio Isla firing over the bar on the slide.
So, for the second consecutive World Cup, the holders exit at the group stage, Italy having done likewise in 2010. For Spain, so dominant on the international stage since 2008, this felt like the end of a very special era.
They will have nothing but pride to play for when they take on Australia in Curitiba on Monday.