Spain overcome early jitters
Spanish team avoid another big-name exit as they sink 10-man Chile
AFTER the week’s big-name exits, World Cup organisers would have been pleased that favourites Spain overcame their earlytournament jitters to advance to the second round with a 2-1 victory over Chile at Loftus last night.
Spain meet Iberian neighbours Portugal in the last-16 in Cape Town on Tuesday. Chile, reduced to 10 men with the 38thminute sending off of midfielder Marco Estrada, face the daunting task of taking on Brazil on Monday.
No 2-ranked Spain came into the World Cup having established a fearsome reputation with their one-touch, ball-playing game in the last two years. The style took Spain to the Euro 2008 title, a victory that has supposedly taken a weight off their backs of disappointing at major tourna- ments.
And yet, after losing 1-0 in their opener to Switzerland, then bouncing back with a 2-0 win over Honduras, La Roja were left precariously needing a win against Marcelo Bielsa’s impressive Chile to avoid joining holders Italy and 2006 finalists France with an early flight home.
Chile had twin 1-0 wins, and a draw would have guaranteed their progression. A win to the two European teams last night would have left three teams on six points and brought goal difference into play.
Chile maintained their record of never having beaten Spain, now in eight outings. After their confident start to the competition, they seemed overly respectful of the Spanish last night, who still did not hit anywhere near top gear.
While Spain had two early chances to Fernando Torres, it was Chile who threatened more in the first quarter. Real Madrid goalkeeper Iker Casillas was at full stretch to tip over Alexis Sanchez’s audacious chip from the right corner of the area.
But it was Spain who scored first in the 24th minute. Chile goalkeeper Claudio Bravo came out of his area to clear at Torres’s feet, but only as far as David Villa on the right, who chipped into an open goal to becomeSpain’s leading World Cupscorer with six goals.
Chile could have pulled one back when forward Jean Beausejour ran at goal down the left, but shot into the side-netting.
In the 37th minute, the South Americans’ night appeared to be going all wrong.
Iniesta won the ball on the right and worked it to Villa on the left, who fed the ball back in to the Barcelona midfielder to place his shot past Bravo for Spain’s second.
During the move Estrada, already booked, clipped Torres’s heels and Mexican referee Marco Rodriguez showed the mid- fielder his second yellow.
But 10-man Chile prevented what could have turned into a catastrophic result with a somewhat fortunate goal at the start of the second half.
With his first touch since coming on as a half-time substitute, Rodrigo Millar’s attempted chip at goal deflected off Alonso and past the stranded Casillas.
The strike meant Switzerland had to score twice against Honduras in Mangaung to finish above Chile as runners-upto Spain. If Spain scored again, the Swiss would only need a single goal.
In the last-half hour, and with Switzerland-Honduras remaining goalless, both sides were content to maintain the status quo and play out the 2-1 scoreline.
Spain avoided meeting Brazil, while Chile reached the World Cup second round for only the second time outside their own country.
Spain goalkeeper Iker Casillas (back left) warms up as his girlfriend Spanish sports television presenter Sara Carbonero works on the touchline before the World Cup group H soccer match between the Chile and Spain at the Loftus Versfeld Stadium in Pretoria last night.