FIFA World Cup’s Group B saw two highly significant games played today. The Netherlands upset the valiant Australians earlier in the day, while Spain sought to redeem their status as world leaders against Chile. The Spain-Chile game felt as though Chile were playing on home turf, as their fans staked claim on the Estádio Maracanã in Rio de Janeiro.
Much of the hype leading up to today’s game between Spain and Chile surrounded what changes Vicente del Bosque would make to the Spanish starting lineup. Spain’s defense came under fire following the massive blow dealt to the team by the Netherlands, and there were questions of whether or not Spanish goalkeeper and captain Iker Casillas would play. Del Bosque decided to stick with Casillas in goal, and instead opted to change out Gerard Piqué and Xavi.
The new strategy for the Spanish squad aimed at keeping numbers up on the attack without sacrificing numbers in the back. Pedro provided the means for the Spaniards by pushing up high and wide on the left. Instead of sending up both outside backs on the attack, the Spanish could have the same firepower by sending only one, Cez Apilicueta, and still have three fullbacks ready in the event of a counter attack. Unfortunately, the strategy worked better on paper, and Chile was able to overpower the Spanish defense early on.
The first goal came in the 20th minute and was the result of a poor pass in the midfield by Xabi Alonso of Spain. Alonso’s ball was intercepted, and in sequence went from Arturo Vidal to Alexis Sánchez, who then gave it off to Charles Aránguiz in the box. Aránguiz sent the ball across the goal to Eduardo Vargas who gave a brilliant finish past Casillas. It was a true team effort on Chile’s part and archetypal of why Chile will advance out of Group B as Spain goes home this World Cup.
Chile continued to control the pace of the game, netting another goal in the 43rd minute. Casillas defended a free kick by punching the ball right back into the center of the box, landing at the feet of Aránguiz. The Chilean capitalized on the goalie’s mistake by sending the ball to the back of the net.
The second half saw a lot of the same narrative: Spain unable to keep the ball under control, and Chile passing in circles around the defending World Cup champions. Nothing seemed to go well for the Spanish squad. Opportunities were constantly squandered by poor first touches and turnovers.
What began as a high intensity game ended rather anticlimactically. The end of the second half turned into a pitiful flop fest on Chile’s part. Understandable that a team would want to run down the clock, however the Chileans took the narrow strategy too far. Nonetheless, they gave a great performance during the first half and will advance out of the World Cup’s Group B over defending champions Spain. The Chileans are set to play the Netherlands next Monday, June 23rd to finish off group play.
Commentary by Courtney Anderson
Guardian Liberty Voice Sports Writer Covering World Cup Group B
Observation by author
Guardian Liberty Voice