Spain: tired, obsolete and out of the World Cup after six days
Champions out as another lacklustre show ends in defeat at the hands of vibrant Chile
Chile 2 Spain 0. Spain's dream of becoming the first nation to retain the World Cup since Brazil in 1962 was left in tatters as they were humbled for the second time in six days, this time by Chile in the febrile atmosphere of the Maracana.
Having been humiliated 5-1 by Holland in their opening group B match, the holders and number one ranked team in the world had to get a result against the Chileans to keep alive their hopes of qualifying for the last 16. But first-half goals from Eduardo Vargas and Charles Aranguiz gave the vibrant South Americans an unassailable lead against a Spain side that looked tired, unimaginative and obsolete.
The defeat, combined with Netherlands' win over Australia earlier on Wednesday, means that Spain and the Socceroos, the highest and lowest-ranked teams at the World Cup, are the first two teams to be eliminated from the tournament, after less than a week.
The vanquished Spanish follow in the ignominious footsteps of France, champions who went out without scoring a single goal in 2002, and Italy, who finished bottom of their group in 2010. But at least those two had something to play for in their final group game.
While the future of coach Vicente Del Bosque will come under scrutiny in the days and weeks ahead, Spain's shock exit will also likely end the international careers of the country's most successful footballing generation. The likes of goalkeeper Iker Casillas, midfielders Xavi and Xabi Alonso and striker Fernando Torres may have helped Spain to back-to-back European Championship titles and their first World Cup crown, but time – and other countries – have caught up with them.
Losing to Netherlands in the most crushing defeat of Spain's World Cup history was bad enough for Las Rojas' travelling fans but to then see their boys outclassed by a country that had hitherto never recorded a competitive victory over them was surely confirmation that an era is at an end.
A forlorn Del Bosque admitted that his side deserved to be going home after their final group game against Australia on Monday. "In the first half we were really shy and sluggish and not brave enough so Chile were able to put the pressure on us," he explained. "In the second half we had more space and some chances but I am trying to find excuses - we played worse than Chile and Holland and so we have lost."
Asked about his future Del Bosque, who has two years to run on his current contract, replied: "I think this team is good but we have to take a decision about what is good for Spanish football and that applies to myself as well."
Chile, meanwhile, who have definitely qualified along with Holland from pool B, play the Dutch on Monday to see who finishes top of the pool and avoid a potential clash with the tournament hosts in the Last 16. "Against Netherlands we will have the same approach, knowing we need to win to be first in our group," said coach Jorge Sampaoli. "If we don't win against Netherlands we will probably have to play Brazil if they win against Cameroon. Considering our performances the most important thing is to play as a team - and that's why we have been so dangerous and have had such good results."
Despite his euphoria at seeing his side beat the world champions so convincingly, Sampaoli had some sympathy for the plight of his opponents. "In football everything changes," the Argentine said. "Spain has played very well over the years and had wonderful performances but today that generation of players couldn't keep that success going, and that's normal because success is not forever."