Though Spain crashed out of the World Cup at the first hurdle for the first time since 1998, they went out with a bang after disposing of Australia 3-0 in their final Group B fixture on Monday.
Spain’s lack of form in Brazil was epitomised by lead striker Diego Costa’s group performances, having failed to produce a single shot on target during his time on the pitch, per OptaJean:
0 - Diego Costa has failed to register a single shot on target in his 126 minutes of play at the World Cup 2014 (5 shots). Exhausted.— OptaJean (@OptaJean) June 18, 2014
With nothing to lose in their final group match on Monday, manager Vicente del Bosque turned to a pair of Spanish major-tournament legends—David Villa and Fernando Torres—to lead the line, and they did so with aplomb.
Villa hadn’t played a single minute of World Cup football prior to lining up against the Aussies, but rolled back the years to steal the show at the Arena da Baixada.
Approaching half-time, Villa got his reward for a strong start to the match by delicately putting the Spanish ahead, impressing ESPN’s Jason Bennett in the process:
David Villa been the class player on park so far & sneaks in behind @socceroos defence to score relatively soft goal. 1-0 Spain 37th min.— Jason Bennett (@Aussies_Abroad) June 23, 2014
The 32-year-old flicked home Juanfran’s cross with the back of his heel, showing the kind of touch that he’s built his career on, as The Sun revealed:
We should mention that David Villa's finish was exquisite. Cute little heel to break the deadlock #ESP— The Sun - Football (@TheSunFootball) June 23, 2014
In doing so, Villa became Spain’s all-time highest goalscorer in the World Cup, chalking up nine goals in 12 games, according to OptaJose:
However, it wasn’t all smiles for the former Barcelona man, who broke down in tears after being substituted in what’s set to be his last match for Spain, per ESPN FC:
Naturally, the praise came in for Villa, who made his international debut almost a decade ago in 2005. Guillem Balague revealed via Twitter just how emotional an occasion Villa’s departure from the national setup is:
Xavi (injured) and Villa will never be seen at this level again. All of a sudden it all feels very hard to take— Guillem Balague (@GuillemBalague) June 23, 2014
Just over 30 minutes after Villa’s goal, it was Torres’ turn to show Del Bosque what he’s been missing by choosing Costa with a well-taken strike to double Spain’s lead, much to club side Chelsea’s admiration:
His finish was reminiscent of the Torres of old, and Gary Lineker was quick to question why Chelsea are so desperate to land Costa with Torres already in their ranks:
Forget about signing Costa, Chelsea. Torres is back!— Gary Lineker (@GaryLineker) June 23, 2014
Though Lineker's comments are in jest, the chance that he buried may well have ended up in row Z just a few weeks ago and it was refreshing to see. The goal ended the 30-year-old’s lengthy wait for a goal in the World Cup, as OptaJean shared:
526 - Fernando Torres has ended his run of 526 minutes without scoring in the WC. Honour.— OptaJean (@OptaJean) June 23, 2014
However, it’s his performance that will have given both Chelsea and Spain fans encouragement, with his movement and touch once again impeccable despite making a few Torres-esque errors during the game.
It’s unlikely that Torres will take to the World Cup stage once again, meaning that Monday’s routine victory was the perfect way for both he and Villa to sign off from the tournament.
The Spanish desperately need to find an up-and-coming striker to lead their line and bring major-tournament glory back to Spain. If they find a player that can replicate the form of both Villa and Torres in their respective primes, then they’ll undoubtedly hold the famous trophy once again.