Thrashed 5-1 by the Dutch in their opening game, Spain's normally
composed and incisive team again looked a spent force, allowing
Chile to score twice in the first half then hold firm for a totally
deserved, glorious win.
"It is difficult to explain," bemoaned Spain captain and goalkeeper
Iker Casillas, who was at fault on both goals and is likely to be
among an old guard jettisoned for fresh faces.
"We ask people's forgiveness. We are responsible but also the first
ones to feel the pain."
The undisputed kings of global football in the last six years, Spain
won the 2008 and 2012 European Championships and their first World
Cup in South Africa. But their supremacy is no more and an ageing
team needs to be rebuilt.
Chile, who had not beaten Spain in 10 previous games, looked sharper
and more aggressive from the start.
Eduardo Vargas turned Casillas and avoided lunging defender Sergio
Ramos to score the first goal after 20 minutes, before Charles
Aranguiz struck the second just before halftime, sending the
red-clad hordes of South American fans delirious.
Seemingly perennial nearly-men the Netherlands, who have lost three
World Cup finals including to Spain in 2010, continued their
storming start to the tournament with a thrilling 3-2 victory over
In a fantastic end-to-end match in Porto Alegre, "Socceroos" veteran
Tim Cahill smacked in a spectacular volley that should be a
contender for goal of the World Cup.
"I want to leave a mark for all the kids back in Australia and
around the world to be inspired," he said.
YOUNGEST DUTCH SCORER
It was not enough, however, to stem the Dutch, who came from behind
to win with a long-range strike by 20-year-old substitute Memphis
Depay that made him the youngest player to score in his nation's
long and illustrious World Cup history.
With maximum points and eight goals scored, coach Louis van Gaal was
one of the happiest men in Brazil.
The Netherlands, hoping to finally shed their unwanted tag of being
the best country never to win the World Cup, and Chile have now both
secured berths in the last 16.
They meet on Monday to decide the Group B winners.
Cameroon's torrid World Cup also ended on Wednesday when they were
trounced 4-0 by Croatia in the Amazonian heat of Manaus. Having lost
captain Samuel Eto'o to injury, a miserable campaign for the
'Indomitable Lions' was compounded by a needless sending off for
Alex Song after he hit Mario Mandzukic.
Croatia, no doubt motivated by a sense of injustice over a penalty
awarded to Brazil in their opening defeat by the hosts, were
ruthless, Mandzukic helping himself to a double.
Brazil and Mexico each have four points in Group A, and Croatia
three, meaning a win for them against the Mexicans in Recife on
Monday would take the European side into the last 16 for the first
time since they reached the semi-finals in 1998.
The tournament has been a spectacular affair so far, with daredevil
teams bringing goals galore and pacy end-to-end football that has
eclipsed the duller fare in South Africa.
The football action has also taken attention away from sporadic
political protests against Brazil's government and worries about
whether infrastructure would be ready.
PELE, MARADONA MISS GAMES
This would not be South America, though, if everything went
perfectly and about 200 Chilean fans stormed the media center at the
Maracana stadium just before the game on Wednesday.
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Journalists are not the only ones to be inconvenienced.
Former Argentina captain Diego Maradona, who is working as a TV
pundit in Brazil, said on Wednesday he was denied entry to the
Maracana for his team's weekend game against Bosnia.
That followed discomfort for another soccer great, Brazil's Pele,
who had to listen to the first half of the hosts' 0-0 draw with
Mexico on his car radio due to being stuck in traffic.
While fans in Brazil have been thrilled by the action, there has
been tragedy for soccer lovers in Africa where Nigeria's Boko Haram
and Somalia's al Shabaab operating in Kenya have killed several
dozen people enjoying World Cup games together.
Islamist militants also marred the last World Cup with bombs killing
nearly 80 fans watching football on TV in Uganda.
For Thursday, there is an attractive lineup of matches.
First up, Colombia and Ivory Coast clash in Brasilia, both buoyed by
opening day wins in Group C.
Colombia may prove to be South America's surprise package, thrashing
Greece 3-0 in their first game in an attacking display that belied
the absence of top striker Radamel Falcao.
Ivory Coast are looking like Africa's best hope after a promising
2-1 win over Japan inspired by veteran Didier Drogba who came off
the bench when they were losing.
The second game of the day is a more desperate affair, with England
and Uruguay smarting from opening defeats and hoping to justify
their reputations with a first win in Group D.
Japan play Greece in Thursday's final match.
The Japanese may have been distraught at letting a lead slip to the
Ivorians, but they at least know how to cope with defeat.
The Asian champions found some solace and had a good heart-to-heart
in a shared jacuzzi session. "We told each other how rubbish we were
but not to let it get to us. It's good to finish things off with a
laugh," said striker Yoshito Okubo.
Anyone else needing cheering up might want to head for Belo
Horizonte. Binmen there are entertaining fans by singing and tapping
out samba rhythms as they trundle through the street after dark
picking up rubbish.
"This is the home of music and football!" said one rubbish-collector
Matheus Pinto, 20, wearing Brazil colors over his working garb as he
tapped out samba on the back of a lorry.
(Additional reporting by Angus MacSwan in Porto Alegre, Simon Evans
and Ossian Shine in Rio de Janeiro, Patrick Johnston and Iain Rogers
in Brasilia; Editing by Ken Ferris)
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