Australia vs. Spain: 6 Things We Learned

Tim Collins@@TimDCollinsFeatured ColumnistJune 23, 2014

Australia vs. Spain: 6 Things We Learned

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    Spain eased their way to a comfortable 3-0 victory over Australia on Monday, salvaging a small degree of pride from a disastrous World Cup campaign in Brazil.

    After fending off a bright start from the Socceroos, La Roja took control of the game after the 15-minute mark against their inferior opponents. Fittingly, it was David Villa who signed off in style in his final appearance in national colours, giving Vicente del Bosque's men the lead going into half-time with a neat backheel finish. 

    The second half became a more subdued affair as motivation for both sides quickly faded; Fernando Torres and Juan Mata put the result beyond doubt late on.

    For the Spaniards, Monday's clash represented the definitive end for the nation's current crop, with regeneration ready to commence for the defending champions.

    For the Australians, however, the 2014 World Cup has come to represent the beginning of a new generation for the Socceroos under Ange Postecoglou, as they have put forward bright displays in one of the tournament's toughest groups.

    With both teams now out of the World Cup, we examine six things we learned from Monday's clash.

David Villa Will Be a Fine Addition to the MLS

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    David Villa's international career came to an end on Monday, as Spain's all-time leading scorer signed off in style by scoring his side's opener against Australia. 

    Having been a major component of La Roja's three consecutive titles, the New York-bound forward has played only a peripheral role in the Spaniards' campaign in Brazil.

    However, Villa provided a nice reminder of his exceptional talent, backheeling Juanfran's cross past Australian goalkeeper Matthew Ryan to cap off his glittering international career.

    Now headed to the United States' New York City FC, the former Barcelona star should prove to be a fine addition to Major League Soccer next season, helping to continue the league's growth in North America. 

    Based on the performances of Jurgen Klinsmann's side so far in this tournament, it would appear that the MLS is making strong strides.

    The presence of another international star can only help to further elevate the standard of the league.

Xavi Has Likely Played His Last Match for Spain

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    No player has embodied the essence of this glorious Spanish era quite like Xavi. 

    Perhaps the finest midfielder of his generation, the 34-year-old has been the central hub for everything this team has achieved since that first European Championship title back in 2008. 

    But endings have a knack for being cruel in professional sport, and not even the Barcelona great has been able to avoid a forgettable ending to his international career.

    After being one of the Spanish midfielders overrun by the Dutch in his team's opener, the 34-year-old was dropped for La Roja's pivotal clash with Chile last Wednesday.

    Sadly, the vastly decorated Spaniard didn't enjoy a farewell appearance in his final World Cup campaign, watching on from the sidelines as Vicente del Bosque's men brushed aside Australia. 

    It's likely we've seen the last of Xavi in that iconic Spanish shirt. 

Tim Cahill Will Be Sorely Missed at Russia 2018

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    At 34 years of age, it's almost certain that Tim Cahill has played his last World Cup match for Australia.

    Based on his performances in Brazil and how the team coped in his absence against Spain, the Socceroos will have a hard time replacing the former Everton star when the tournament heads to Russia in four years' time. 

    That was evident against the Spanish on Monday, with the Australians lacking the quality and unrelenting energy of Cahill in and around La Roja's penalty area.

    Against Chile, the lively striker had presented the South Americans with a host of problems with his aerial threat in Australia's crossing game, while his volley against the Dutch will be remembered among the finest World Cup goals of all time. 

    Having joined an elite club by scoring in three different World Cups, Cahill will now bid farewell to the game's grandest stage, leaving an enormous hole at the top of the Australian attack. 

The International Future of Iker Casillas Remains Unclear

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    Vicente del Bosque chose to replace Iker Casillas with Pepe Reina for Spain's final match in Brazil, but it's unclear whether this is the end for the Spanish icon. 

    In theory, the Real Madrid goalkeeper should be in his prime at 33 years of age, given that shot-stoppers tend to blossom in their 30s in a manner that isn't possible for players in other positions. 

    However, Casillas' recent form has been so dire that it's possible La Roja could look to either Reina or David de Gea to take on the No. 1 role ahead of future international tournaments. 

    If that were to be the case, it has been a forgettable conclusion for Casillas in 2014, with his two glaring mistakes against Chile and Netherlands playing a notable role in Spain's implosion at this year's event. 

    How the veteran keeper responds domestically with Los Blancos in 2014-15 may well determine whether he joins the Spanish squad for the defence of their European title in two years' time. 

Ange Postecoglou Has Australia Heading in the Right Direction

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    Ange Postecoglou took the helm of this Australian team at a difficult time, as he needed to replace the nation's finest but ageing generation with the exuberance of youth if progress was to be made. 

    Based on Australia's efforts in this World Cup, the manager has his side moving in the right direction as the Socceroos eye the 2015 Asian Cup and the 2018 World Cup in Russia. 

    Despite failing to record a win in Brazil, Postecoglou's Australia have played with a genuine sense of adventure, surprisingly controlling large portions of their clashes with Chile and Netherlands. 

    Encouraging the high-possession and uptempo style that made his Brisbane Roar outfits the dominant A-League club, the 48-year-old has instilled a distinctly Australian feel to the national side, rekindling the bold and brave spirit that won Australia admirers at Germany 2006.

    While the Socceroos' performance against Spain wasn't their finest, Australia can depart from Brazil with a sense of optimism for what lies ahead.

A New Spanish Era Will Now Begin

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    It's undeniable that Spain have reached the end of this current era, given that many of the team's cornerstones are approaching the final stages of their respective careers.

    However, those forecasting a steep decline in the nation's footballing fortunes may not have examined the next wave of talent available to La Roja. 

    Indeed, at youth level in Europe, Spain have dominated their rivals in recent years, meaning it's extremely unlikely that the Spaniards will fall from prominence at Euro 2016 and the 2018 World Cup.

    Whether it be Vicente del Bosque or a different manager, the man at the helm of Spain will have a plethora of young talent to choose from, including players such as Thiago Alcantara, Iker Muniain, Ander Iturraspe, Alvaro Morata, Asier Illarramendi, Isco, Daniel Carvajal, Alberto Moreno, Gerard Deulofeu, Marc Bartra, Martin Montoya, Jese Rodriguez, Ander Herrera, Cristian Tello and Inigo Martinez.

    Add those names to the younger members already in the squad, and the potential is there for another sustained run of success.