Chile 2, Spain 0
Chile stunned Spain 2-0 to secure a place in the knockout phase with a Group B game to spare and eliminate the FIFA World Cup™ holders. Eduardo Vargas and Charles Aranguiz sent the South Americans in at the break at a two-goal cushion, and though the Iberians tried relentlessly to get back into the game after the restart, they were unable to find a way past Claudio Bravo.
After a humbling 5-1 defeat by the Netherlands in their curtain-raiser, Spain coach Vicente del Bosque dropped Xavi and Gerard Pique, but their rocky start continued as Chile had two great opportunities go ahead before even two minutes had been played. The quick feet of Alexis Sanchez got their defence in a muddle, but Eduardo Vargas opted to take a touch, rather than shoot, seeing the ball ricochet just beyond the post off a Spanish leg. The danger did not end there though, as Sergio Busquets failed to clear the resulting corner, with Gonzalo Jara all alone to head inches wide of the top corner.
Jorge Sampaoli’s team did nevertheless find a breakthrough on 20 minutes – and it was a goal the Europeans would have been proud of. Delightful interplay between Sanchez and Arturo Vidal sliced through the midfield, with the ball being worked to Charles Aranguiz in the area. His cute pass inside found Vargas, who had the presence of mind to take a touch – eliminating Iker Casillas from the game – before slotting in past the sliding Xabi Alonso. It is arguably the team goal of the tournament so far.
Alonso and Diego Costa fired over and wide respectively as La Furia Roja tried to restore parity. But the instant response the Spanish fans were hoping for did not arrive as Chilean intensity prevented Vincente Del Bosque’s side replicating either their mesmeric passing or suffocating possession that has brought them so much success.
Vidal recently described their style of play as “suicidal” to FIFA, however in the first-half it was anything but, frustrating the UEFA EURO 2012 winners, with an unnecessary foul by Xabi Alonso bringing about their second goal. Sanchez’s free-kick was poorly punched by Casillas to the feet of Aranguiz, who trapped the ball superbly and toe-poked it beyond the despairing reach of Spain’s record cap-holder.
Costa could have made the perfect start after the break, after a surgical Iniesta pass put him one-on-one with Claudio Bravo, only for the ball to get caught under his feet, allowing Mauricio Isla to pull off a last-ditch tackle. The Atletico Madrid forward turned creator as Busquets spurned an even better chance. Chile failed to clear a Sergio Ramos free-kick, and when the Brazil-born player’s spectacular bicycle-kick flash across goal, the Barcelona midfielder missed from four yards with the goal at his mercy.
Chile visibly tired in the latter stages of their first outing at Brazil 2014, but while they soaked up Spanish pressure they were still dangerous on the break in the Maracana. Vargas picked out the overlapping Eugenio Mena on the left-hand side, and though his shot was going wide, Isla slid it at the far post to fire narrowly over.
Substitute Santi Cazorla, twice, and Iniesta tested Bravo from distance, but the goalkeeper was equal to them and it sealed a disastrous exit for Del Bosque’s boys.