Wednesday, in the Maracana Stadium, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, the Chilean National Football Team eliminated Spain, the reigning world and European champions, with a 2-0 victory in their Group B World Cup match.
The end of the Spanish era was marked not by a defeat of the tiki-taka possession style that had brought the Iberians to prominence but precisely by its absence. The defeat to Chile was a product of the strange strategic choice made by Spanish coach, Vicente del Bosque, who decided to play a bruiser up front and the long ball played to him, instead of the short passing style to the fleet, finesse players that for so long defined the Spanish style of play.
Coach del Bosque’s decisions seemed to indicate that he had no confidence in the style he has for so long proclaimed to be Spain’s. The moment he chose to include Diego Costa in the starting line-up he changed the team’s style and chemistry. That del Bosque could not see this was so, even while witnessing, in Spain’s game against El Salvador in Washington DC earlier this month, that there were two Spanish teams on the pitch that day—one which tried to play with Costa and couldn’t and one that played with David Villa, and won—indicates the coach’s era is at its end too. What he should have seen in DC was that Villa scored a brace in the Spanish style while Costa missed chance after chance his way. In this cup,Costa has missed golden chances against the Dutch and the Chileans, while options languished on the bench.
Missing on the pitch today, until well into the second half, were Xavi Hernandez, Gerard Pique, David Villa, Cesc Fabregas, Fernando Torres, and the once-great Iker Casillas. The latter started, but he might as well not have. For the third time in as many critical matches, dating back to domestic and European play, his miscues resulted in an opposition score. This time he inexplicably spilled a ball into oncoming traffic and paid the price.
The match was a tough-played one as both teams knew what was at stake and made no bones about going after one another. But watching the Spaniards sending long balls to Costa while the Chileans scored a Spanish-style goal at the 19th minute was tough to watch. Eduardo Vargas capped a beautiful play that began deep on the Chilean half and saw each Spanish defender eliminated by a short Chilean pass until at the end Vargas faced Casillas and poked the ball in.
Chile’s second goal came at the 43rd minute when a dangerous free kick came over the Spanish wall and was inexcusably blocked into the middle of the box by an unchallenged Casillas. Charles Aranguiz, standing inside the box toe poked the Casillas gift right back at goal for the easy score. Chile 2, Spain 0.
The writing was on the wall as the half ended. Not a single Spanish chance, and there were a few, had been truly as dangerous as a number of the Chilean ones were. None of the Spanish tries found the net, two of Chile’s did.
Incredibly the second half began with the same strange style of play and the Spanish team, without their long-held libretto as a guide, simply could not find their way into the match. In fact, despite some good chances for the Iberians, Chile looked the more dangerous side.
Ironically, the Dutch-inspired Barcelona style that was the foundation of the Spanish Team’s style, was psychological shaken on Friday by the current Dutch squad, and ultimately destroyed by a Chilean team led by Barcelona FC’s Alexis Sanchez.