Spain's World Cup defence ended by Chile
Two first half goals from Chile sent a tired Spain tumbling out of the tournament
Fatigued, drained and almost unacquainted, Spain's World Cup defence was ended on Wednesday night before it ever had the chance to get going. They join France (in 2002) and Italy (2010) on an unwanted list of nations who have failed to get out of the group stages after winning the tournament four years previously.
All the talk prior to the match had been based around the group being stronger than ever, ready to avenge their slaughtering at the hands of Holland and move themselves back into contention to get out of the group again. That talk never turned into actions though, and once Eduardo Vargas gave Chile a 20th minute lead there only really felt like there would be one outcome.
Charles Aránguiz, who set up the first goal, added a second before the interval and Chile will now play the Dutch in their final game to decide who tops the group. Spain, meanwhile, will take on Australia in a match to dodge finishing at the bottom of the pile.
Questions will be posed over the international futures of the likes Iker Casillas, Xabi Alonso, Xavi and Fernando Torres now - David Villa, who didn't feature here, has already announced his decision to retire from la Seleccion after this summer - but it would be harsh to single out the older, more experienced players for criticism when not one player has really shown up in Brazil.
Some of Chile's fans who didn't have tickets for the match had unsuccessfully stormed the media centre at the Maracana stadium before the game in an attempt to get in to watch the match. Around an hour later, their country's football team made a similarly blitzing start to the encounter. But for all they threw forward in those opening exchanges, all they had to show for it was a Gonzalo Jara header which looped over the bar.
As the half grew in age though, so too did Spain in confidence. Their passing became slicker and they soon carved a great chance. Diego Costa rampaged into the area, dragging a shot wide, but not out of play, and a scramble followed in the area. Claudio Bravo made a fine save from Xabi Alonso, before American referee Mark Geiger eventually caved in and awarded a free-kick to the South Americans.
One sloppy Alonso pass and three minutes later though, la Roja were behind. The Real Madrid midfielder sold Jordi Alba short and Chile attacked down the right flank. Spain were caught could and couldn't recover the shape and, as Aranguiz sent in a cross, Vargas first touch cut him inside Iker Casillas and he poked his country into the lead. As it had done for the national anthem before the match, the stadium turned into a pocket of Santiago.
Spain once again regained control of the ball after conceding their sixth goal of the tournament - double the amount they conceded at the 2010 World Cup and the 2012 Euros combined - but they lacked punch in the final third. Chelo Diaz was keeping the creativtiy of both Andres Iniesta and David Silva at bay.
In fact, whether through frustration or tiredness, Spain appeared to resort to long ball tactics. They didn't look like scoring one, so when Chile doubled their lead in the build up to half time Del Bosque's side looked dead on their feet. Iker Casillas made a mess of clearing a free-kick from Barca's Alexis and Aranguiz prodded home from 10 yards with the Madrid keeper looking like a man who has not played much football over the last 18 months.
After Koke's introduction for Alonso at half time, there were signs of life from the Spanish. Iniesta's incisive through ball found Costa, but the Chelsea-bound striker's shot was deflected wide. Alba drilled off target, Sergio Ramos struck a free-kick straight at Claudio Bravo and Sergio Busquets missed a glorious chance at the far post. As the Barca midfield sliced his finish, the overriding feeling was: "it's not Spain's night."
Fernando Torres came on, so too did Santi Cazorla, but there was no change in la Roja's luck. While they intricatelty searched for space in the Chile half, they looked drunk everytime they were asked to defend. Mauricio Isla put one of Chile's more presentable chances over the bar as they threatened to score the defining third goal.
The reaction that will follow will be over the top, of that you can be sure, but let's hope that six years of Spanish dominance is not forgotten in the wake of their elimination. The players don't deserve that.
Spain: Casillas; Azpilicueta, Ramos, Javi Martínez, Alba; Busquets, Xabi Alonso (Koke 45); Pedro (Cazorla 76), Silva, Iniesta; Diego Costa (Torres 64).
Chile: Bravo; Medel, Silva, Jara; Isla, Aranguiz (Gutierrez), Diaz, Mena; Vidal (Carmona 88); Sanchez, Vargas (Valdivia 85).
Booked: Vidal, Mena.
Goals: Vargas 20, Aranguiz 43.
Referee: Mark Geiger (USA).