Defending champ Spain eliminated
RIO DE JANEIRO -- Defending champion Spain, the dominant global football power for the past six years, was eliminated from World Cup contention Wednesday with a 2-0 loss to Chile.
Spain's famed passing game failed against a high-tempo, tenacious Chile team, its era ending in the storied Maracana Stadium filled mostly with noisy Chilean supporters.
Eduardo Vargas tricked goalkeeper Iker Casillas into diving the wrong way, then shot into an unguarded goal in the 20th minute. Charles Aranguiz scored in the 43rd when the ball landed at his feet after Casillas punched out a free kick.
"I only ask fans for forgiveness, we did everything we could," said Casillas, who lifted the World Cup trophy four years ago.
Spain's second loss, after a 5-1 rout by the Netherlands, ended any hope of advancing. Chile and the Netherlands will both make it to the knockout stage regardless of who wins the game between them Monday, which will only decide the Group B winner.
Spain won the European Championship in 2008 and 2012, in addition to the 2010 World Cup.
Perhaps the Euro 2012 final was the footballing high point of the era: A 4-0 dismantling of Italy on a similarly balmy evening in Kiev, Ukraine
Spain came to Brazil with a very similar -- but older -- team to the one that won those titles. They added Brazilian-born striker Diego Costa, but he failed to score a goal and was substituted in both matches.
"We have no excuses," said Spain coach Vicente del Bosque. "We were too slow, timid from the start today. It's a sad day for all of the players. Time to think about the future."
Spain's "tiki-taka" style of play -- keeping the ball for long stretches with short passes, and only shooting when you had a clear opening -- had not been working as well in recent years. Brazil defeated Spain 3-0 in last summer's Confederations Cup, a warm-up for the World Cup.
The stars who had made the system go are still on the team, but they've clearly lost some speed and their connections haven't been as sharp. Barcelona midfielder Xavi Hernandez, who often delivered the key pass, didn't play Wednesday.
Spain became the third straight European defending World Cup champion to flop in the group stage. France in 2002 and Italy four years ago also failed to advance, or even win a match.
Badly needing a win, del Bosque stayed loyal to captain Casillas despite the veteran goalkeeper's errors against the Dutch.
But two pillars of Spain's title runs, Hernandez and Barcelona teammate Gerard Pique were left out, despite 194 combined appearances.
Xabi Alonso probably should have joined them. His agonizing first half typified Spain's problems and his errors led to both goals.
And Alonso's selection left a younger version of his former self, Atletico Madrid's Koke, on the bench until the logical change was made at halftime.
Alonso gave away the ball to Alexis Sanchez to start a move down Chile's right wing by Arturo Vidal and Aranguiz, leading to Vargas' score. Alonso trailed behind the play and put his hands to his head.
Alonso was booked in the 40th before conceding another foul, on Sanchez, three minutes later 22 yards (meters) out.
When Casillas punched away Sanchez's curling free kick, Aranguiz trapped the ball then flicked a rising shot spinning away from the goalkeeper's reach.
Dutch 3, Australia 2
PORTO ALEGRE, Brazil (AP) -- Louis van Gaal can pinpoint the moment he knew his Netherlands team would be able to hold off Australia and secure the win that ultimately put them through to the knockout rounds of the World Cup.
With just over 20 minutes to go in a frantic, seesawing match, Australia missed a golden chance to take a 3-2 lead.
Sitting on the bench, van Gaal saw that as the sign and turned to his assistant coaches to tell them.
"I said to Patrick Kluivert and Danny Blind, ‘We're going to win this match because if they miss that kind of chance, we will score the goal."'
Seconds later, he was proved right. From the very next attack, substitute Memphis Depay drove a swerving, speculative shot toward the goal from 25 yards. Australian goalkeeper Maty Ryan didn't sight it early enough and the ball shot past his outstretched right hand.
It capped a game that intensified suddenly when a 20th- minute solo run and strike by Arjen Robben was cancelled out seconds later by a stunning volley from Australia's inspirational veteran Tim Cahill.
Australia then went ahead with a second-half penalty, only for Robin Van Persie to equalize four minutes later.
The result left the Netherlands, which thrashed defending champion Spain 5-1 in its opening game, on the verge of advancing from Group B. That was confirmed a few hours later when Chile beat Spain, knocking the 2010 World Cup winners and Australia out of contention.
"Bitterly disappointing," Australia manager Ange Postecoglou said. "Just for the players, they were magnificent. They took it to a world-class team. Full credit to them, but I just feel bitterly disappointed they weren't able to get some reward out of it today. We came to this World Cup and we're playing against three of the best nations in the world."
When Robben opened the scoring, giving him a third goal for the tournament, another rout seemed to be in the works. But that was only for only a matter seconds, with Australia equalizing after Ryan McGowan sent a long, looping pass from the midfield to Cahill, who volleyed over Jasper Cillessen onto the underside of the bar in one of the best goals of the tournament so far.
Mark Bresciano and Matthew Spiranovic missed chances that could have given the Socceroos a halftime lead.
Just before the interval, Cahill needlessly clattered into the back of Bruno Martins Indi and was given a yellow card. He was also booked in Australia's opening 3-1 loss to Chile, meaning he may have played his last World Cup game. Martins Indi was helped off the field, replaced by Depay to start the second half, and later taken to a hospital with a suspected concussion.
At the start of the second half, Netherlands changed from a 5-3-2 system that worked so well against Spain to a more traditional Dutch 4-3-3 style to incorporate Depay, but it was Australia which took the surprise lead with a penalty after Daryl Janmaat handled the ball in the area.
Mile Jedinak converted from the spot in the 54th but Van Persie leveled again four minutes later. He later received his second yellow for the tournament, ruling him out of Netherlands' last group match against Chile.
Australia's best change to regain the lead was in the 68th minute. Tommy Oar had a shooting opportunity down on the left hand side of goal but chose to cross to Mathew Leckie, who could only chest the ball toward the keeper. Depay's goal seconds later was his first for his country.
"Most games are decided on moments and we had out moments," Postecoglou said. "We could have gone 3-2 up and we really had momentum at that time. And unfortunately Matty Lekic just couldn't get the right purchase on it to put it away."
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