The defending champions are out of the Fifa World Cup 2014.
Early this morning (6am Singapore time), Spain, the victors of the last World Cup in 2010, were knocked out of the tournament, completely disgraced and without a single point to their name – so far. They are the first defending champions to fall after only two games.
After a mere six days of World Cup football, the Spanish title defence has gone completely awry. A morale-sapping 5-1 defeat to the Netherlands was followed, in quick succession, by another 2-0 defeat to Chile.
Like toothless tigers without a fight
They seemed to have completely given up on their title defence without so much as a fight. The warning signs were already there, when they were mauled 5-1 by the Netherlands in their first group match.
In that game, the Spanish were completely clueless, toothless and aimless and didn’t seem to know what they were doing.
Didn’t learn from their mistakes
But Spain apparently didn’t learn from their mistakes from that opening match, and in their next game against Chile, they not only used similar uninspiring tactics but they even dropped their influential playmaker, Xavi. That backfired really badly and resulted in another defeat at the hands of the South Americans.
It wasn’t even hard for Chile to break down Spain in the first place. All the South Americans had done, was to deny the Spanish players space in midfield, and then ran down the flanks at top speed whenever they got possession of the ball. These had been eerily similar tactics to the Netherland’s – in their game against Spain.
France and Italy, two previous World Cup defending champions who had been eliminated at the first hurdle of earlier tournaments, had lasted all three of the group games. And unlike the sorry Spaniards, they had even collected points from draws.
The mighty have indeed fallen
How the mighty have fallen. Now Spain is lying at the bottom of their group with a vastly inferior goal difference to even the Socceroos – who didn’t have any chance of qualifying from the so-called tough group, anyway.
But in last night’s other Group B fixture though, the Australians had put on a very inspired performance against the Netherlands to keep them at bay. The Socceroos gave the Oranje a mighty scare – and even scored two goals in the process. Furthermore, one of these was a magnificent Tim Cahill goal-of-the-tournament contender, at that. The Socceroos may have lost that game in the end, but this is exactly how Spain should have been playing their attacking football instead – if they had wanted to defend their crown.
Dead rubber of a final group game
Now this leaves the Spaniards with a completely dead rubber of a group game, in their final World Cup 2014 match against Australia. Spain’s star-studded celebrities now have nothing to play for, but national pride.
With the way that the Socceroos played against Holland, the Spanish team, despite all their individual creativity and brilliance, must probably be quaking in their boots now about the prospect of facing even the Australians. That is, if they don’t want to go home with an embarrassing record of three straight defeats and zero points.
Unlike Spain, the Australians can walk away with their heads held high
Sure, the Australians were also kicked out of the tournament too last night, but at least they actually came to play football and really took the game to their opponents (the Netherlands) with their fighting spirit. Their hunger and desire was clear whenever they chased and gained possession of the ball. The Socceroos certainly didn’t wander aimlessly around the pitch like the sorry Spanish team did.
Unlike the Spaniards, the Australians can walk away from the World Cup with their heads held high, knowing that they gave this tournament their best shot.
And if the Socceroos can show up again, like they did last night against the Dutch, I can easily foresee the Australians inflicting a third straight defeat on Spain.
What does this mean for Spanish football?
For Spain’s players, an early flight home basically means that they will get to enjoy their summer holidays earlier than expected. They will be watching the rest of the World Cup from their comfortable living room couches – and maybe even seeing their non-Spanish club-mates lifting the elusive trophy.
Spain’s manager Vicente del Bosque will definitely need to come up with plenty of explanations, for his hopelessly poor tactics and insisting on playing out-of-form players (such as Diego Costa). Moreover, relying on an ailing, old squad – rather than injecting some new blood into the Spanish team, isn’t going to do any favours either.
But if Spain wants to get back and continue to be a force to be reckoned with, in international football, an overhaul of the team – and a new manager, may definitely be in order.