June 19, 2014 in Sports

Spain ’not good enough’ after early FIFA World Cup exit

Associated Press
 
Associated Press photo

Iker Casillas said “the commitment wasn’t there” after Spain became the first title holder to exit after two games.
(Full-size photo)

Spain’s players had different explanations for the team’s early World Cup exit.

Captain Iker Casillas said there was lack of commitment, midfielder Xabi Alonso thought there wasn’t enough hunger. According to Fernando Torres, Spain was “just not good enough.”

Chile’s 2-0 victory on Wednesday in Rio de Janeiro meant the 2010 World Cup champion is the first title holder to exit after just two games following the opening 5-1 loss to the Netherlands.

Spain’s squad of 23 players featured 16 who were part of its World Cup success in South Africa. Casillas, Alonso and Xavi Hernandez had been the engine behind the team’s triumphs on the world stage, but were left exposed in Brazil.

“We didn’t know how to maintain our hunger or that conviction needed to win a tournament. The joy and success we’ve experienced is over,” Alonso said from the Maracana stadium. “We lost our knowhow, which has helped us win so many of these important games. It doesn’t feel like our other tournaments.”

Spain’s players agreed that they did not read their opponents well, or know when to clamp down and control the games through keeping possession as it has been known to do.

“The commitment wasn’t there,” said Casillas, who owned up to perhaps his two worst performances in 156 appearances for Spain. “From the very first moment everything went awry.”

Chile’s Eduardo Vargas tricked Casillas into diving the wrong way, then shot into an unguarded goal in the 20th minute. Charles Aranguiz scored for Chile in the 43rd when the ball landed at his feet after Casillas punched out a free kick.

Alonso, who along with Casillas and Xavi may have seen their international careers come to an end, said Spain was not mentally prepared for Brazil, while the team’s physical state was not at its peak either.

“Normally cycles come to an end after a defeat. Maybe it would be best to think about making changes,” Alonso said.

Torres did not want to jump that far ahead, as the Spain striker put a positive spin on the collapse, even suggesting he would not have changed a thing.

“We went down playing our style. It’s what got us here and we’re going to maintain it,” Torres said. “We didn’t do anything different than what we did in South Africa or in the two Euros we won. We came here with the same mentality and approached games in the same way.

“Those times we won, this time we lost.”

Spain’s demise was more made glaring by coach Vicente del Bosque’s decision to stick with an aging group of players that had already won everything in international and club football.

“We thought we were in good shape, it was tough to even choose the 11 players that would line up, but the reality was quite different,” Del Bosque said. “The second half against Holland and the first half against Chile were like a weight crashing down on us.”

Del Bosque said the post-mortem would include deciding on his own future despite being signed up to lead Spain’s bid to win a third straight European Championship title in 2016.

Spain wraps up its worst World Cup since France ’98 on Monday in the Group B finale against Australia in the southern city of Curitiba.

Netherlands 3, Australia 2: Memphis Depay scored a late clincher as Netherlands withstood Australia’s unsettling challenge in a comeback win at Porto Alegre, Brazil, to move to the the knockout rounds of the World Cup.

Netherlands followed up its 5-1 rout of Spain with a closer-than-expected win against Australia, which is out of contention after two straight defeats.

Arjen Robben and Robin Van Persie, who each scored twice against Spain, added to their tallies before and after Australia’s goals. Substitute Depay scored the winner in the 68th.

Croatia 4, Cameroon 0: Mario Mandzukic scored two goals to keep Croatia in the mix at the World Cup with a win over 10-man Cameroon, which will be going home after the group stage, at Manaus, Brazil.

Mandzukic, who returned to the team at the Arena da Amazonia after sitting out the opening loss to Brazil because of a suspension, headed in a corner from Danijel Pranjic in the 61st minute and then knocked in a rebound in the 73rd of the Group A game.

Ivan Perisic also scored one goal and made another for Ivica Olic.

Cameroon was reduced to 10 men after midfielder Alex Song was given a red card for elbowing Mandzukic in the back in an off-the-ball incident in the 40th minute.

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