Spain had another rough day against a supposedly inferior opponent.
The Spaniards were pegged as one of the top teams in the soccer competition in the 2012 London Olympics, but they haven't played that way in their first two games. Luis Milla's club suffered a heartbreaking 1-0 loss to Honduras on Sunday in a Group D match of monumental proportions.
Jerry Bengtson scored the only goal of the match on a seventh-minute header off a cross from Roger Espinoza. The fellow MLSers, who play for the New England Revolution and Sporting Kansas City, respectively, were the shining stars for Honduras in this match.
Honduras did well to pressure Spain early on before the dam burst that gave them a one-goal lead that wouldn't be relinquished.
Spain didn't have many serious chances until the latter half of the first 45 minutes, but they began to come often in the second half. La Roja peppered Honduras' net over the final 20 minutes and kept the ball on the offensive end for an extended final push.
Unfortunately, they couldn't get it done. Thanks to a combination of bad luck, a non-call in the box and unpolished play, Spain now has no chance of advancing to the knockout stages.
The FIFA.com official Twitter feed noted the substantial lack of fortune for the Spanish side:
FT Spain 0-1 Honduras. A superior Spain rattled the woodwork three times but Bengtson's first half goal knocks them out of #London2012— FIFA.com (@FIFAcom) July 29, 2012
SoccerByIves.com's Ives Galarcep voices his opinion on the match, saying that Honduras did well to scratch and claw its way to a crucial victory against a world soccer power:
Hilarious hearing people criticizing Honduras for way they played. What a joke. That's like blaming David for using a rock to slay Goliath.— Ives Galarcep (@SoccerByIves) July 29, 2012
Reporter Felix Maradiaga pleads his case that Honduras should be receiving plenty of recognition for beating one of the world's best soccer teams, albeit the under-23 roster:
ESPN's Paul Carr let us know about the rarity of Spain losing this early in a major international tournament:
Last time Spain was eliminated in the group stage of any world tournament: 2001 U-17 World Cup.— Paul Carr (@PCarrESPN) July 29, 2012
Grades for Key Spain Players
Juan Mata: C
Juan Mata was the most dangerous man on the pitch for Spain all day, but couldn't get the job done where it counted the most. He was all over the place in the offensive third, carving up the Honduras back line with ease, but was unable to finish on multiple occasions.
As the catalyst of the team in this one, he helped Spain largely outplay its opponent, but just missed finding the back of the net when he surely should have been able to.
Jordi Alba: C-
Jordi Alba was hardly relevant for the Spanish side. Other than a late-game cross that looked like it was going to set up an equalizer, he wasn't the facilitator that he usually is.
With under 10 minutes remaining, he took a pass from Mata on the left wing and elected to send the ball to a streaking Rodrigo, who hit the post.
Grades for Key Honduras Players
Jerry Bengtson: B+
Jerry Bengtson wasn't the best man on the pitch, but the game-winning shot came off his head and just past the goalkeeper.
Albeit in the seventh minute, it was the decisive shot and the momentum Honduras needed in a match where it was definitely not the favorite.
Roger Espinoza: B+
Bengtson couldn't have scored the early goal without a perfectly placed cross in the center of the box from Roger Espinoza. He had an opportunity to double his team's lead just after halftime, but his header found the woodwork.
He was the best man for his team today, especially given that he only played about 70 minutes before being taken out in favor of some extra defense.
Deciding Factor: Spain's Inability to Finish
The Spanish found plenty of posts in the first half alone, then saw some more bad luck after the break, but that's no excuse. Mata had two or three chances on his own to pull his team even, but narrowly missed each time.
He was unleashing rockets towards the net, but just couldn't pinpoint his shot in the way we have seen in the past.
Game MVP: Jerry Bengtson
In a one-goal match, the man who scores the goal must be a favorite to be awarded the MVP for his team. Bengtson didn't strike often, but he took advantage of the golden opportunity he was afforded when a cross was sent into the box his way.
Unlike his Spanish counterparts, he was able to come up clutch and take it to Spain early on.
Spain play a meaningless game against Morocco on Wednesday. Nothing but pride is on the line for La Roja, as it will head home dejected after a poor performance in London.
Honduras has done well to increase its chances of advancing, but its work is far from done. At least a draw against Japan in the final match will be enough to ensure moving on to the knockout stages.