Chile end Spain's four-year reign
Spain's intricate build-up play no match for Chile's swift, aggressive football
(Eduardo Vargas 20, Charles Aranguiz 43)
The golden age is over. After six years and three consecutive international titles, Spain's reign of tiki-taka based terror has drawn to a close.
The defending champions were dumped out of the World Cup this morning (Singapore time), beaten 2-0 by Chile, a team whose swift, aggressive football couldn't be more different from the patient, cerebral build-up that has served the Spaniards so well for so long.
The world, it seems, has moved on.
There were so many avatars for this epochal shift, so many faces to the failure.
Diego Costa was a frustrated, shuffling lump at the top of the pitch, presumably wondering why he had sold out his own country for the misplaced hope of Spanish silverware.
Xabi Alonso gave the ball away so often that you began to wonder if an imposter had sneaked into the dressing room before the game and stolen his shirt.
Iker Casillas, a fixture for almost a decade and a half, dropped another clanger, presenting Chile with their heartbreaking second goal.
Vicente del Bosque resisted the temptation to sweep the decks clean, making just two changes to the team that were so soundly thumped by Holland.
Out went Xavi Hernandez and Gerard Pique, in came Javi Martinez and Pedro Rodriguez.
Perhaps he should have been more decisive.
For all that he has done, for all that he has won, he will surely lose his job now.
Perhaps his final act will be to field a young team for the meaningless final game against Australia, a reminder that there is still a legacy for the future.
The danger signs were there from the start.
Chile could have taken the lead within two minutes when Eduardo Vargas's shot caught a deflection and bounced just wide.
The resultant corner was headed past the post by Gonzalo Jara.
Jorge Sampaoli's men were faster, hungrier and more aggressive.
The Spanish had no room and no time for their intricate build-up play - they were flustered and they were anxious.
It took just 20 minutes for the breakthrough to come.
Alonso, not for the first time, gave the ball away, Alexis Sanchez and Arturo Vidal combined, the ball fell to Charles Aranguiz who could have shot, but instead chose to slip the ball to Vargas.
The Napoli man made no mistake. The world champions were wobbling.
Spain tried to find some rhythm to their passing, but their fears betrayed them.
For the first time in years, their metronomic distribution wasn't working, compromised by a combination of Chilean aggression and their own inadequacies.
And then, just before half-time, Casillas made another fatal error and Chile punished him ruthlessly.
Sanchez fired in a free-kick, a shot that should have been comfortably claimed but, instead, Casillas punched it straight to Aranguiz, who almost nonchalantly fired it back past him into the back of the net.
After just one-and-a-half matches, the greatest team in a generation were holed beneath the water line.
Sergio Busquets could have brought his team back into contention eight minutes after the break.
Chile goalkeeper Claudio Bravo, channelling the spirit of Casillas, punched a weak free-kick into danger, Costa lobbed the ball into the six-yard box and Busquets somehow managed to edge it wide.
Spain would not come that close to scoring again.
But, while the headlines will understandably be dominated by analysis of this Spanish slump, immense credit must be given to this Chilean side.
To play with such intensity and ferocity is extraordinary when you consider the stifling conditions.
Whether or not they can maintain that tempo throughout the tournament remains to be seen, but they would be no one's idea of ideal opponents in the knockout stage.
They are brave, forcing their lines forward to compress the space, even at the risk of leaving themselves vulnerable.
They are strong, crashing into tackles despite their diminutive size.
They took down a strong Australian side last week and now they have brought the World Cup holders and double European Champions to their knees.
They are contenders.
“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. Mentally, we were not ready and, physically, we were struggling a little.”
— Spain midfielder Xabi Alonso
"It’s difficult to explain what happened. Sorry to the fans. We are those responsible. It is not the day to start blaming or changing."
— Spain goalkeeper Iker Casillas
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