Say goodbye to the defending World Cup champions.
It took Spain all of two games to pack their bags for their return trip home from Brazil. They were crushed by Netherlands in their first game—but they lost their first game in 2010 as well, so it wasn’t time to panic just yet.
That all changed when Chile took it to Spain throughout their matchup on Wednesday and won 2-0.
While Spain’s elimination was the headline of the day, there was a trio of games that took place on Wednesday. Let's take a look at the scores and how each outcome impacted the group tables.
Netherlands 3, Australia 2
On paper, Netherlands were supposed to handle Australia easily, especially after their impressive win over Spain in the first game.
However, Australia came out in impressive fashion and controlled much of the early possession until Arjen Robben flashed his brilliance with the opening goal. He sprinted nearly half the field with the ball and drilled it home, and it appeared as if Netherlands were on their way to an easy victory.
Tim Cahill answered for Australia almost immediately, though, with a long-range shot of his own to tie the game at one at intermission.
Australia put a scare in Netherlands in the second half when they forced a handball in the box from Daryl Janmaat and Mile Jedinak scored on the subsequent penalty kick.
Yet, Robin van Persie tied it up, and substitute Memphis Depay buried the winner from long range, rescuing Netherlands and setting them up for a clash with Chile for the group championship. It won’t be easy going forward, though, as SportsCenter pointed out:
Still, Netherlands already clinched a spot as an advancing squad from group play, so this is nowhere near as concerning as it would have been with a loss Wednesday.
Chile 2, Spain 0
So much for a repeat championship.
Eduardo Vargas scored what proved to be the difference-maker a mere 20 minutes into the game for Chile. SportsCenter had the highlight:
Things got even bleaker right before the half when goalie Iker Casillas, who had a game to forget against Netherlands, couldn’t corral a kick from Alexis Sanchez. Charles Aranguiz drilled in the second goal for Chile, and the writing was on the wall.
To Spain’s credit, they came out with much more urgency in the second half, but Chile goalie Claudio Bravo turned back all of their efforts. The loss marked the first time in World Cup history that a defending champion was eliminated after just two matches.
Coach Vicente del Bosque certainly wasn’t pleased, via Paul Logothetis of the Associated Press. “We need to look at what’s best for Spanish football, including myself," Del Bosque stated.
While the attention will be on Spain for losing, Chile deserves plenty of credit. Both Australia and Spain had trouble dealing with Chile's athleticism and speed in the midfield and on the attack, and Bravo looked more than capable of handling his duties in goal.
It will be interesting to see how Netherlands deals with that athleticism with the group title at stake and being down a critical contributor.
As for Spain, that meaningless game against Australia may turn ugly. Spain could be dejected and come out with little or no energy, or they could take out all of their frustrations on the overmatched Australia squad.
Regardless of the result, this fan will probably be happy, via Sports Illustrated:
Croatia 4, Cameroon 0
The game between Croatia and Cameroon was a tightly fought match for much of the early going until Alex Song lost his composure for a minute. ESPN FC captured the head-scratching highlight:
With a one-man advantage—and more talent to begin with—Croatia took off in the second half and added on to their 1-0 lead quickly. Mario Mandzukic buried two goals and was an absolute force on the attack, while Ivica Olic and Ivan Perisic added to the total.
While this was clearly an easy victory after the red card, it has to be noted that Croatia has looked very capable at times in this World Cup. Were it not for a questionable call against Brazil, they could have at least tied the host country, and this contest was an absolute blowout down the stretch.
The next game against Mexico is virtually a winner-take-all affair, so this type of momentum is imperative. Mexico was excellent both defensively and in goal against Brazil, so something will have to give in that matchup with Croatia’s offense.
|2014 World Cup Group Standings|
|Bosnia and Herzegovina||1||0||0||1||0|
Follow me on Twitter: @ScottPolacek