Spain over­come early jit­ters

Span­ish team avoid an­other big-name exit as they sink 10-man Chile

Weekend Witness - - Sport - MARC STRY­DOM at Lof­tus

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...

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