In 2002 France went to the World Cup as reigning champions and finished bottom of their group. The same thing happened at South Africa in 2010, when the 2006 World Cup winners, Italy, were sent packing. And if Spain fail to beat a well-fancied Chile side in Rio tonight it will surely happen to them too.
The world champions’ 5-1 thrashing at the hands of the Netherlands on Friday night was the shock of the tournament so far, and unless Las Rojas bounce back against Chile they could well have lost their crown after just 180 minutes of football.
Spain are currently bottom of their group with no points and a goal difference of minus four following that defeat. Netherlands and Chile both have three points.
The Dutch are expected to beat Australia in today’s early kick-off and, if they do, they will then have six points. That would pile the pressure on Spain, who cannot realistically afford anything other than a win against Chile.
If they are beaten by the South American side then their campaign will be over. If they draw it leaves them in a precarious position, as Netherlands and Chile would then go into their final group game knowing that a draw would be enough to send both of them through.
A draw between Spain and Chile would leave Vincent del Bosque’s men needing to beat Australia by at least two goals and praying that the Dutch beat Chile to send them through.
Even a narrow win for Spain would leave them with plenty to do in the final group game, thanks to their negative goal difference. Only a convincing win over Chile will do.
Spain boss Vincent del Bosque is expected to make some major changes after last week’s mauling, with Pepe Reina likely to come in to replace Iker Casillas in goal.
“[David] Silva is likely to make way for Pedro, who had started eight consecutive games before the match in Salvador, and the coach has also contemplated a change at centre-forward, with [Fernando] Torres or [David] Villa as a No 9 or even [Cesc] Fabregas as a false No 9”, says The Guardian.
The most significant change would be if Xavi is dropped. Leaving out the king of Spain’s tiki-taka style “would carry a symbolic significance; he is 34 and he is also the ideologue of the approach that has defined Barcelona and la seleccion”, says the paper.
Whatever team Spain field it will not worry Chile, says Roberto Martinez in The Times. The South American teams will be confident against Europeans he says.
“[Chile] will be very aggressive. They are an all-or-nothing team, the sort that very rarely draws matches. They will go for Spain’s throat… They are South American, after all. And as we have seen, that gives them a considerable advantage.” ·