RIO DE JANEIRO – Defending champion Spain, the dominant global football power for the past six years, was eliminated from World Cup contention Wednesday with a 2-0 loss to Chile.
Spain’s famed passing game failed against a high-tempo, tenacious Chile team, its era ending in the storied Maracana Stadium filled mostly with noisy Chilean supporters.
Eduardo Vargas tricked goalkeeper Iker Casillas into diving the wrong way, then shot into an unguarded goal in the 20th minute. Charles Aranguiz scored in the 43rd when the ball landed at his feet after Casillas punched out a free kick.
I only ask fans for forgiveness, we did everything we could, said Casillas, who lifted the World Cup trophy four years ago.
Spain’s second loss, after a 5-1 rout by the Netherlands, ended any hope of advancing. Chile and the Netherlands will both make it to the knockout stage regardless of who wins the game between them Monday, which will only decide the Group B winner.
Spain won the European Championship in 2008 and 2012, in addition to the 2010 World Cup.
Perhaps the Euro 2012 final was the footballing high point of the era: A 4-0 dismantling of Italy on a similarly balmy evening in Kiev, Ukraine.
Spain came to Brazil with a similar – but older – team to the one that won those titles. They added Brazilian-born striker Diego Costa, but he failed to score a goal and was substituted in both matches.
We have no excuses, Spain coach Vicente del Bosque said. We were too slow, timid from the start today. It’s a sad day for all of the players. Time to think about the future.
Spain’s tiki-taka style of play – keeping the ball for long stretches with short passes – had not been working as well in recent years. Brazil defeated Spain 3-0 in last summer’s Confederations Cup, a warm-up for the World Cup.
The stars who had made the system go are still on the team, but they’ve clearly lost some speed and their connections haven’t been as sharp. Barcelona midfielder Xavi Hernandez, who often delivered the key pass, didn’t play Wednesday.
Spain became the third straight European defending World Cup champion to flop in the group stage. France in 2002 and Italy four years ago also failed to advance, or even win a match.
NETHERLANDS 3 AUSTRALIA 2: In Porto Alegre, Brazil, Memphis Depay scored a late clincher as Netherlands withstood Australia’s unsettling challenge in a comeback win to move to the verge of qualifying for the knockout rounds.
Netherlands followed up its 5-1 rout of defending champion Spain with a closer-than-expected win against Australia, which is almost surely out of contention after two straight defeats.
Arjen Robben and Robin Van Persie, who each scored twice against Spain, scored before and after Australia’s goals. Substitute Depay scored in the winner in the 68th minute.
CROATIA 4 CAMEROON 0: In Manaus, Brazil, Mario Mandzukic scored two goals to keep Croatia in the mix with a win over 10-man Cameroon, which will be going home after the group stage.
Mandzukic, who returned to the team at the Arena da Amazonia after sitting out the opening loss to Brazil through suspension, headed in a corner from Danijel Pranjic in the 61st minute and then knocked in a rebound in the 73rd of the Group A game.
Ivan Perisic also scored one goal and set up for Ivica Olic. Cameroon was reduced to 10 men after midfielder Alex Song was given a red card for elbowing Mandzukic in the back in an off-the-ball incident in the 40th minute.