Spain went into the clash with Chile needing a win to ensure safe passage through to the next round. With the group wide open and with three teams having an equal chance of qualifying for the next round, this tie was of extreme significance. Spain needed a win to ensure safe passage while Chile needed a draw to top the group and secure their place in the next round. The atmosphere was tense as kick off neared at Loftus Versfeld Stadium in Pretoria.
Spain started with the almost same side that took to the field against Honduras with the only change being the replacement of Jesus Navas with Andres Iniesta. Fernando Torres, who had a torrid time in the last game, started in the centre with David Villa playing on the left.
Chile started off well but it was Spain who had the first chance of the game with Fernando Torres heading a lofted Xavi pass well clear of goal. Torres had another brilliant opportunity a minute later but his first touch deserted him and he was unable to control a lovely ball by Capdevila.
Chile settled down quicker than their more fancied opponents and could have taken the lead in the 10th minute when Jean Beausejour got behind the Spanish defense and sent in a low cross into the box for Mark Gonzalez. The former Liverpool man though, was unable to direct his shot towards the goal. Chile were dominating the game and Alexis Sanchez created a chance out of nothing when he tried an audacious chip which Casillas had to stretch to clear.
Spain though took the lead in the 24th minute through David Villa. In a moment of bizarre madness, Chile goal keeper Claudio Bravo rushed out to clear a Xabi Alonso pass. His clearance fell straight to David Villa who took a first time shot into the empty net from around 30 yards out.
The goal though did not deter the South Americans who pushed forward in search of a goal themselves and they came quite close with just ten minutes remaining in the first half. Beausejour made a brilliant run behind the Spanish defense and was denied at the last moment by the out stretched legs of Gerard Pique.
Just a couple of minutes later, Spain doubled their lead against the run of play. A quick counter attack saw an exchange of passes between Torres, Villa and Iniesta before Iniesta coolly slotted the ball past Bravo. More drama was to follow as Chilean mid fielder Marco Estrada was given marching orders for a foul on Torres – his second booking of the day. In the build up to the goal, the mid fielder clipped Torres and the referee showed him a second yellow. Replays suggested that he was a bit unlucky as the contact was minimal at best.
As the first half drew to a close, Spain started to dominate the game with the numerical advantage proving to be a tough challenge for Chile to overcome.
The second half started much the same way as the first with the South Americans pushing forward in search of an opening and they found one in the very next minute. After some wonderful build up play, the ball fell to substitute Rodrigo Millar and his shot took a wicked deflection off Gerard Pique and left Casillas with no chance as he watched the ball sail into the net.
The struggling Fernando Torres was replaced by Cesc Fabregas in the 54th minute and the latter almost set up Xavi after a wonderful one-two but Xavi was unable to reach the ball and the chance was wasted. Villa had another chance to extend Spain’s lead in the 60th minute but Ponce did brilliantly to win the ball. David Villa was looking menacing, making darting runs behind the Chilean defense and with Chile down to 10 men, Spain slowly started finding space to play their natural possession game.
As the game went on, Chile decided to concentrate on defense and receded into their own half for most part of the last 20 minutes. With both teams certain of qualifying if the status quo remained as it was, Chile were happy to sit back and defend while Spain seemingly decided to pass the ball around. As the match drew to a close, it became clear that both teams were content with the current scoreline and that is how it remained after full 90 minutes of entertaining football.
Spain picked up the desired three points and topped Group H while Chile went through as runners up after Switzerland had failed to register a win over Honduras. Chile held their own for most of the match and will take a lot of heart from the fact that they matched the European Champions, even with a man short. Spain on the other hand will have let out a collective sigh of relief after the victory and now have Portugal waiting for them in the round of 16.
The Hard Tackle’s Player of the Match:
David Villa (Spain)
The Spaniard had a wonderful game for the second match running. His stunning finish for the first goal was absolutely brilliant and he also set up Andres Iniesta for the second. He worked tirelessly on the left and was a constant threat up front the entire match.
The Hard Tackle’s Referee Report Card:
Julian Rodriguez Santiago (Mexico): Grade: B-
In an otherwise uneventful game, the Mexican’s decision to send off Estrada was baffling to say the least. Replays clearly suggested that the contact was minimal and the Chileans will feel a little hard done by that decision. That said, that was the only glaring mistake in a well officiated game.
CHILE 0-2 SPAIN
Venue: Loftus Versfeld Stadium, Pretoria
Chile Line-Up: Claudio Bravo, Waldo Ponce, Gonzalo Jara, Gary Medel, Arturo Vidal, Marco Estrada, Mark Gonzalez (45′ Rodrigo Millar), Mauricio Isla, Jorge Valvidia (45′ Esteban Paredes), Jean Beausejour, Alexis Sanchez (65′ Fabian Orellana)
Manager: Marcelo Bielsa
Caution: Gary Medel (15′), Waldo Ponce (19′), Marco Estrada (21′, 37′)
Sent-Off: Marco Estrada (37′)
Scorers: Rodrigo Millar (47′)
Spain Line-Up: Iker Casillas, Gerard Pique, Carles Puyol, Joan Capdevila, Sergio Ramos, Xabi Alonso (73′ Javi Martinez), Sergio Busquets, Xavi, David Villa, Fernando Torres (55′ Cesc Fabregas), Andres Iniesta
Manager: Vicente Del Bosque
Scorers: David Villa (24′), Andres Iniesta (37′)