Rio de Janeiro, June 19 (PTI): Spain today made a shock early exit from the World Cup after a disappointing 0-2 loss against Chile even as Brazil 2014’s scintillating goal-scoring spree continued on the seventh day.
Spain needed either a win or at least a draw to remain afloat in the tournament but they were outclassed by an aggressively attacking Chile to join Brazil (1966), France (2002) and Italy (1950 and 2010) in the dubious club of defending champions bowing out of World Cup in first round.
They now join Australia, who lost to the Netherlands 2-3 in an earlier Group B match of the day, as the first teams to bow out of the tournament.
Eduardo Vargas put Chile in the lead in the 20th minute before Charles Aranguiz made it 2-0 in the 43rd minute to send Spain packing in front of the packed crowd at the iconic Maracana Stadium. Chile thus avenged their 1-2 loss to the same opponents in their group match in the 2010 World Cup.
By virtue of the win, Chile made it to the round of 16 from Group B along with the Netherlands. Spain’s final group match against Australia on June 23 at Curitiba has now been rendered inconsequential.
Spain also earned the dubious distinction of making the earliest exit from a World Cup by a defending champion in history. No defending champions have ever been eliminated after only two games of the first phase.
In other matches of the day, the Netherlands rallied from a goal down to edge past a gritty Australia 3-2 in a Group B match at Porto Alegre while Croatia sent 10-man Cameroon packing from the tournament with a 4-0 thrashing in Group A at Manaus which saw Alex Song being red-carded for elbowing an opponent in a moment of madness.
It turned out to be the worst night for Spain as they did not have any answer to the aggressive and attacking football of Chile in the initial 45 minutes and then played a chasing game in the second half to be outclassed by their opponents in the end. .
On a day when King Juan Carlos tearfully sealed his abdication after a four-decade reign, Spain were dethroned as world champions after six years as the dominant force of world football.
In the last World Cup, Spain did lose their opening match but eventually bounced back to go on winning the title. But this time, it was not destined to be like that and their 1-5 humiliation by the Netherlands, their worst defeat since the 1-6 loss to Brazil in 1950 World Cup, was followed by defeat at the hands of Chile today.
The talk of the end of an era was imminent as Spain, the exponents of the famous ‘tika, taka’ style of football and two time European Championship winners (2008 and 2012) besides the 2010 World Cup crown, exited from Brazil 2014 without any impact and scoring just one goal in two games.
Earlier in day, the Netherlands edged past a spirited Australia 3-2 in an incredible World Cup match.
The way the Netherlands overran Spain the other day, it looked like the Australians would be blowned away by the Dutch in the first World Cup match between the two sides.
But the Group B match at Estadio Beira-Rio saw none of it and fortunes fluctuated between the two sides throughout the gripping 90 minutes with the Australians producing a gutsy performance belying the expectations from them.
Australia, the lowest FIFA ranking team among the 32 participants, refused to be cowed down by the reputation of the Dutch, who were the last edition losing finalists and who had just ripped to shreds defending champions Spain 5-1.
Instead, the Socceroos hold their own and at one stage took the lead around the hour mark. For a moment, it looked like Australia will tear apart the form book and pre-tournament predictions by upsetting the Dutch.
It ultimately boiled down to the difference in class between the two sides that decided the outcome of the match with the Dutch far ahead in that aspect. .
Arjen Robben, who scored two goals against Spain and mesmerised the defending champions’ defence, put the Netherlands ahead in the 20th minute only to be restored parity by a stunning Tim Cahill goal next minute with perhaps the best goal of the tournament so far.
Australia stunningly took the lead in the 54th minute with captain Mile Jedinak converting from the spot after Daryl Janmaat handled the ball inside the box.
But within four minutes, Robin van Persie (58th) put the match on level terms with a left-footed finish after he was set in the clear by Robben inside the Australian box.
Second half substitute Memphis Depay then ended the Australian dreams by scoring the winner in the 68th minute.
Brazil 2014’s scintillating show of attacking football continued with Croatia thrashing a 10-man Cameroon 4-0 in Group A.
Goals from Ivic Olic, Ivan Perisic and a Mario Mandzukic brace helped the Croatians coast to victory while Cameroon had Alex Song sent off in the first half for a wild punch.
The victory puts Croatia just a point behind Group A leaders Brazil and Mexico, leaving their destiny in their own hands when they face the Aztecs in Recife on Monday.
Croatia were the better side throughout, even before Song’s needless dismissal five minutes before half-time.
Olic had popped up in the right place at the right time to tap home from close range on 11 minutes to give Croatia the lead.
Any chance Cameroon had of getting back into the game disintegrated when Song lost his head and thumped Mandzukic in the back right under the referee’s nose, earning a straight red card.
Cameroon imploded as full-back Benoit Assou-Ekotto appeared to headbutt team-mate Benjamin Moukandjo late on.
The second half was all about how many goals Croatia could wrack up as Perisic netted three minutes after the restart.
Mandzukic, who did not play in the opening defeat by hosts Brazil as he was suspended, scored a pair of typical goals for the targetman with a header from a corner and then a tap into an empty net.