David Villa scored a goal in his final international match as Spain finished off a disappointing World Cup campaign with a 3-0 victory over Australia on Monday at the Arena da Baixada in Curitiba, Brazil.
Villa, 32, netted Spain's opener in the 34th minute, finishing cleverly with a backheel shot from Juanfran's cutback. The veteran striker left the match for a substitute in the second half and could be seen shedding tears on Spain's bench.
With the win, Spain finished third in Group B with three points. After losing all three matches, Australia finished last with no points. Neither nation will advance to the knockout stages.
Both teams entered Monday's match having already been eliminated from contention in Group B after losses to Chile and the Netherlands. But while Australia's expectations were modest heading into the World Cup, Spain were widely considered one of the favourites for glory in Brazil.
But after winning three consecutive titles in major tournaments—the 2010 World Cup, as well as Euro 2008 and 2012—Spain were eliminated after only two matches in Brazil, the quickest-ever exit for any defending world champion, per ESPN Stats & Info.
As such, the future is uncertain for La Roja, starting with coach Vicente del Bosque. As the Associated Press' Pan Pylas noted, the 63-year-old apparently has the support of the Spanish FA. But Del Bosque himself has said (h/t Daily Mirror) that he does not want to be a "hindrance" to the team.
Meanwhile, the face of the Spanish team might now change quickly. In addition to Villa, who was playing in his final international match, the end could be near for veteran stars like Xavi, Xabi Alonso and Iker Casillas as well.
Regardless of who stays and goes, Spain must now turn their attention to qualifying for Euro 2016. Placed in Group C, La Roja will begin their qualification campaign on 8 Sept., at home to Macedonia.
As football journalist Liviu Bird noted, Spain might have an unfamiliar look the next time they take the pitch:
Following his side's 2-0 defeat to Chile in their second group game, Del Bosque made six changes to Spain's starting XI. Pepe Reina replaced Casillas in goal while Juanfran, Raul Albiol, Santi Cazorla, Torres and Villa came in for Cesar Azpilicueta, Javi Martinez, Pedro Rodriguez, Sergio Busquets and Diego Costa.
For Australia, Adam Taggart came into the starting lineup for the suspended Tim Cahill, who scored twice in two games in Brazil.
Despite all the new faces in the squad, Spain settled quickly into their familiar, possession-based style. A first big chance came in the 23rd minute as Villa set up Jordi Alba with a clever backheel pass. Alba directed a hard, low shot on target, but Australia goalkeeper Maty Ryan pushed the ball away with a two-handed save.
Villa created another moment of danger in the 34th minute, creating space for himself on the left side of Australia's box before flashing a pass across the face of goal. No Spanish attackers were on hand to turn the ball into the net, though, and the chance passed.
Spain and Villa didn't have to wait much longer. The opener arrived in the 36th minute, with the former Barcelona and Atletico Madrid man putting his name on the scoresheet.
Andres Iniesta started the chance with a through ball to Juanfran on the left. Juanfran then drove to the byline on the left before pulling back for Villa in the middle of the box. Turning on the style, Villa finished with a cheeky backheel to give Spain a 1-0 lead less than 10 minutes before half-time.
It turned out to be Villa's last major contribution in a Spain shirt, as the striker made way for Mata in the 57th minute.
Back on the pitch, Spain doubled their lead in the 69th minute via Torres. Iniesta was the architect again, slotting an angled pass through Australia's backline for Torres on the left side of the box. After taking a touch, Torres slotted coolly past Ryan to make it 2-0.
Spain added a third in the 82nd minute, with substitutes Mata and Cesc Fabregas combining well to add gloss to the scoreline. Fabregas registered the assist with a lofted pass across the box to Mata, who finished through Ryan's legs to complete the win.
|Australia Player Ratings|
|Ben Halloran (for Taggart, 46')||N/A||5|
|James Troisi (for Oar, 61')||N/A||6|
|Mark Bresciano (for Bozanic, 72')||N/A||6|
|Ratings by B/R UK|
|Spain Player Ratings|
|Juan Mata (for Villa, 57')||N/A||6.5|
|Cesc Fabregas (for Cazorla, 68')||N/A||6.5|
|David Silva (for Alonso, 83')||N/A||6|
|Ratings by B/R UK|
Spain coach Vicente del Bosque (via FIFA.com):
We rounded off our campaign in the best possible way, the players did great. They put us under the cosh in the opening minutes but we recovered and then took control. We were the better team. There are a lot of players in this group who can play a part in the future, there’s no need to go ruling anyone out. My future? We’ll have a look over the next few days and weeks. There’s no rush.
Australia coach Ange Postecoglou (via FIFA.com):
It was disappointing. We started well but Spain’s quality came through and they ended up imposing their style and taking control. To be honest, we were tired and we gave the ball away far too easily. At this World Cup we’ve shown positive things that we can work on, though we’re still a bit short of matching the world’s best. We’ll work hard to get back here within four years and hit a higher standard. Del Bosque came over to me and congratulated us on our performance at the competition, which was very nice of him. I really admire how the Spanish play football, they always try and play the right way and that, for me, deserves a great deal of respect.
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