World Cup Day 7 Spain/Chile: How The Reigning Champ Was Eliminated

Spain’s abandoned identity 

Following two or three close goal-scoring chances by Chile to begin the match, Spain has quickly reacted to these developments with impatience and rashness. The team has pressured upfield as if already facing a deficit, abandoning its methodical and composed identity in the process, and thus resulting in decreased efficiency in pass connections between players. Once the Spaniards entered the offensive third of the pitch in the early-going, they have taken much more risky passes–ones directed vertically towards goal, rather than horizontally or diagonally as Spain typically uses throughout all areas of the field, the method around which the team constructs its attack. This trend lasts for the rest of the contest, as the team has displayed a restless and unorganized mentality, and perhaps most striking, an increase in costly, inaccurate passes.

A weakness exposed (again)

On the first powerful attack for Chile, that also included a corner kick, the Spanish defense has continued where it left from its last game: defenders, as well as midfielders dropping back, have left several players unmarked within the goalie box. This defensive incompetency–the Spaniards choosing not to fulfill key responsibilities on this side of the pitch–has resurfaced throughout Chile’s subsequent offensive pushes too, as balls into the goalmouth often go unhindered by defenders.

Vargas (11) electrified the pro-Chilean Maracana crowd. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

Vargas (11) electrified the pro-Chilean Maracana crowd with his goal. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

Finally, on the 20th minute, Spain got burned on a counterattack again (similar to what occurred in its prior game against the Dutch), initiating from an errant pass and turnover by the team in its side of the pitch near the midfield line. The Spanish defenders remained flat-footed and simply could not keep up with the racing Chilean attackers as they paced vigorously towards goal. Once play slightly slows down in front of the net, Chile’s passes became more horizontal, but nevertheless Spain’s back line couldn’t mark its opponents, as Eduardo Vargas found enough open space to tap in the score and give Chile a 1-0 lead. The lack of awareness and execution by the Spanish defense reappeared and got exploited once more 23 minutes later: a deflection by Iker Casillas from a free kick bounced right to the feet of Chilean midfielder Charles Aranguiz, who without a defender in front, behind, or beside him, easily finessed a shot into the net (43′), left of the outstretched hands of the Spaniard goalkeeper.

Forward-line problems

Placed atop his team’s lineup, Diego Costa has retained the same cluelessness in the first half while operating in Spain’s offense from his previous outing against the Netherlands. Having lost possession several times already, Costa has not shown the ability to competently participate in the pass-oriented Spanish offense. The striker prolonged his horrid and uninspired performance–defined by a poor touch and lack of control on the ball, which regularly stalled the Spanish attack near goal–into the second half, in which he squandered his best opportunity he saw all game on the 49th minute (a perfect through ball by Andres Iniesta that goes for naught, as Costa staggered and failed to release a clean shot).

After a game without a viable forward presence and productive work at this position–discounting Costa who has proved a poison to his team’s chemistry–and the same scenario repeating itself for another half in Maracana, it’s absolutely inexplicable for manager Vicente del Bosque to not have inserted veteran striker David Villa at some point during Spain’s litany of struggles. With five goals in the 2010 World Cup (tied for the most), three goals in the 2013 Confederations Cup, 13 goals for Atletico Madrid during the 2013/14 La Liga campaign, and 58 goals since the first time he represented his nation in 2005, Villa is without question the most reliable and prolific forward off the bench–and most certainly not Fernando Torres, who has already made two appearances as a substitute in as many games in Brazil. Any concerns about his ability at his age (32) are baseless, as Villa frequently demonstrated over the past few years how well he fits up top in the Spanish offense, adeptly fulfilling the role of a clinical goal-scorer. Furthermore, his exclusion in Spain’s two most important 2014 World Cup matches only adds to the general, disrespectful under-appreciation for and underrated value of David Villa during Spain’s prosperous 2008-2012 era.


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