Spain have unceremoniously been eliminated from the World Cup at the hands of Chile in just the second match of the group stage. The missing form that plagued the Spanish against the Netherlands continued to be elusive.
The defending World Cup champions Spain were eliminated from the World Cup before the end of the group stage on Wednesday, losing 2-0 to Chile at the Maracana in Rio de Janiero.
It was clear from the get-go that Spain needed drastic improvement after their horrendous start to the tournament in Group B - a 5-1 loss to the Netherlands. Coach Vicente del Bosque - speculated to be at the end of his run as Spain's coach - benched two starters, defender Gerard Pique and iconic midfielder Xavi, in an effort to return his team and to the form that made them World Cup champions in 2010 and European Champions in 2008 and 2012.
Instead, the historic string of major tournament victories ended abruptly at the hands of Chile.
"These things happen in sport," said Spanish midfielder Xabi Alonso. "It was unexpected, but we need to deal with it. We were unable to maintain the levels of conviction and hunger that brought us success and happiness before."
"We committed a lot of errors and didn't have the solidity that had helped us win so many matches. We didn't have the same feeling on the pitch that we had during other championships."
No mas tika-taka
Spain were never able to settle into their famous high-paced, quick-passing "tiki-taka" groove. Just 20 minutes in, Chile went ahead 1-0 on a counterattacking run that expertly wove around Spain's woeful defense. Arturo Vidal played an excellent pass into the box for Charles Aranguiz, who crossed to Eduardo Vargas to finish.
It was a sobering moment for a Spain side suddenly staring elimination in the face.
Their slim remaining hopes were dashed just before halftime. Alexis Sanchez fired a free kick directly at Spain's goalkeeper Iker Casillas, who deflected the ball with both fists into his own six-yard box. Aranguiz – completely unmarked – picked up the rebound and had time to bring the ball under control before slotting home for Chile's second goal.
"We didn't deserve to go through to the next round. We have been beaten by superior teams," said Spain's captain, Casillas. "I have not played well and neither has the team in general. Now we need to be even more united and finish in the most dignified manner possible."
Spain frantically searched in the second half for the offensive combination that could salvage them a result, but rarely came close. Any serious threats on goal were expertly handled by Chile's standout goalkeeper, Claudio Bravo.
"We were inferior to both Holland and Chile," said del Bosque after the match. "They got the goals and gave us a mountain to climb. We were too timid in the first half and did not react sufficiently in the second. The first goal really buoyed them and they really got into our faces."
The winning side's stamp on the match began even before the first kick when a group of around 85 Chilean fans broke down barriers outside the Maracana and forced their way inside. In a statement, FIFA said the ticketless fans were quickly apprehended by stadium security and detained. Some of the fans intruded into a media area, knocking over temporary walls to the press center as they forced their way in.