Soccer / Sports

Spanish football kings abdicate with Chile defeat, World Cup exit

RIO DE JANEIRO -- The Spanish kings of football abdicated from the throne with a 2-0 defeat to Chile in the Maracana Wednesday.

The world champions and two-time European championships saw a six-year spell at the top of the world brutally end in Brazil on a day that belonged to Chile, who hit Spain with first-half goals from Eduardo Vargas and Charles Aranguiz.

The loss, following a 5-1 hammering by the Netherlands, means Vicente del Bosque's side has no chance of progressing from Group B, where the Netherlands and Chile go through.

Poignantly, perhaps prophetically, the crushing exit came on the day that Spain's King Juan Carlos signed an abdication law, ending nearly four decades on the Spanish throne.

Spanish football had not reigned as long but the close-passing style had seen them at the pinnacle of world football and the team to emulate since winning Euro 2008.

"It's a fair elimination. They have been superior to us," del Bosque said in first comments.

"The team has shown character but has not been lucky in front of goal. That has been the difference."

Asked about his future as Spain coach, he said: "It's not the time to evaluate. Gradually we will make the necessary reflections. We have time to reflect."

Chile's Argentine coach Jorge Sampaoli said his side played "with great authority, with courage, with intensity, with attack,"

He added: "I'm very happy and I really value the group's effort, since they made a huge effort to play a great match."

Tens of thousands of Chilean fans turned the Maracana in Rio de Janeiro, where Spain had lost the Confederations Cup final 3-0 to Brazil last year, into a home game.

A stirring rendition of the Chilean national anthem set the tone for a furious start in which Arturo Vidal had a shot deflected just wide and Gonzalo Jara headed wide from the resulting corner.

Xabi Alonso was foiled by Claudio Bravo in goal in the 15th minute, but del Bosque's side was punished in the 20th after a poor back pass from Alonso.

The Spanish defense was in disarray and Vargas was unmarked in front of goal to take a pass from Aranguiz to slip the ball past Iker Casillas in goal.

Alonso had a chance to amend but fired over the bar, and Diego Costa hit the side-netting as Spain tried to work its way back.

Alonso showed his frustration with a late challenge on Mauricio Isla which earned a booking and must have been close to a red card, and then gave away the free-kick which led to Chile's second two minutes before half-time.

Casillas saved Alexis Sanchez's free-kick, but punched the ball straight out to Aranguiz who cleverly toe-poked the ball into the net.

Del Bosque had reacted to the 5-1 defeat to the Netherlands by dropping midfielder Xavi and defender Gerard Pique, with Pedro coming into midfield and Javi Martinez starting at center back.

The change had showed signs of working, but Chile's first goal came just when Spain was beginning to find a measure of midfield composure, and as against the Dutch it conceded a goal shortly before the break.

Del Bosque, who cut a pensive figure on the touchline, sent on Atletico Madrid midfielder Koke for Alonso at half-time, and chances came -- the best for Sergio Busquets who woefully screwed wide in front of goal.

Chelsea striker Fernando Torres was introduced just after the hour for Costa in what seemed a last throw of the dice by del Bosque, and Pedro was replaced by Santi Carorla, but the goal Spain needed to give itself hope never looked like coming.

Spain also lost its opening game at the last World Cup in South Africa as well, with Switzerland winning 1-0, but de Bosque's side bounced back to win its next six games on its way to the title.

This time there was no return, and Spain follows Italy in 2010 as title holders to go out in the group stage.

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Distributed by MCT Information Services


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