World Cup Roundup: Spain eliminated from World Cup contention
The defending champions were soundly defeated by Chile on Wednesday, 2-0, ending their chance of repeating as World Cup champions. The Chileans secured a place in the knockout rounds for the second straight World Cup.
After a thumping loss at the hands of the Dutch, Spain needed to rebound with at least one point. But the European side started slowly and never recovered its footing.
Chile struck first in the 19th minute with a beautiful passing display. Alexis Sanchez sent a through ball into the right side of the box for Charles Aranguiz, who quickly touched across the area to Eduardo Vargas. The forward made a quick touch to elude the path of the sliding keeper, Iker Casillas, and fired into the back of the net.
Aranguiz scored Chile's second goal in the 43rd minute following a mistake by Casillas. Sanchez's free kick from distance was on goal, but Casillas punched it straight out rather than toward the sideline. The ball found Aranguiz, who deftly used his right foot to beat the keeper at the near post.
Following the restart, Spain pressed to get back in the match but was unable to break down the Chilean defense. The South American side clogged the center of the pitch, preventing the Spanish from developing much in the way of a buildup.
Second-half substitute Santi Cazorla had Spain's best chance, but his shot from outside the box was saved on a diving attempt by keeper Claudio Bravo. The defending champs finished with twice as many shots on goal as Chile and more of the possession. But the only number that mattered wasn't in their favor.
Chile will take on the Netherlands in the final group-stage match. Seeding in the Round of 16 is up for grabs, with the second-place team in Group B likely to draw Brazil in the first knockout round. If Chile beat the Netherlands, they would win the group. But a loss or draw would leave them in second place with a likely date against the hosts.
The Spanish will play Australia in what amounts to a consolation match, with the Socceroos also eliminated from contention.
In other Wednesday action…
Netherlands 3, Australia 2: A wild match saw the Netherlands squeak past a relentless Australian side in Porto Alegre, Brazil.
The powerful Dutch took a lead in the 20th minute when Arjen Robben led a three-on-one break from midfield and finished off the attack himself. But the lead was short-lived.
Just one minute later, Tim Cahill equalized with a volleyed wonderstrike from about 12 yards. Teammate Ryan McGowan crossed from near the midfield stripe to the left side of the box, where Cahill buried the ball off the crossbar and in.
The Group B match took another twist after the restart. The Dutch conceded a penalty in the 53rd minute when Daryl Janmaat was whistled for a handball in the area. Mile Jedinak converted the ensuing spot kick and the Socceroos went ahead.
But their lead was also short-lived.
Robin Van Persie equalized a mere four minutes later, and 20-year-old Memphis Depay put the European side ahead for good with a bending shot from distance in the 68th. Australian keeper Maty Ryan got his fingertips on Depay's shot but was unable to turn it aside.
The Socceroos could not find the equalizer, and will instead be heading home after the group stage.
Croatia 4, Cameroon 0: The return of Mario Mandzukic helped Croatia rout 10-man Cameroon and set up a showdown with Mexico on Monday.
Ivica Olic scored in the 11th minute to give Croatia an early lead. The European side gained an additional advantage just before halftime, when Cameroon's Alex Song was sent off for punching Mandzukic in the back. The straight red card sent the African squad down to 10 men.
After the restart, Croatia dominated the run of play. Perisic doubled the lead in the 48th minute with a run down the left wing and a short-side finish from eight yards. Mandzukic got on the board with a 61st-minute header off a corner kick, then completed a brace by banging in a rebound.
Croatia sits in third place in Group A with one match to play. They can advance to the knockout stages with a win over Mexico, or a draw and a Cameroonian victory over Brazil. The latter scenario would require the Croatians to maintain their advantage in goals scored.
A look ahead to Thursday's action…
Noon, Colombia vs. Ivory Coast: The Group C co-leaders square off in the first match of the day. Colombia looked sharp in its 3-0 dismantling of Greece. The absence of star forward Radamel Falcao, who is out for the entirety of the World Cup, was a non-issue. But the Colombians have yet to face a side with the offensive firepower of the Ivory Coast. The Elephants turned a one-goal deficit into a 2-1 win in the blink of an eye vs. Japan. The South American side, which led the region in World Cup qualifying with just 13 goals allowed, will be tested.
3 p.m., Uruguay vs. England: The match of the day could be a de facto elimination contest should either side win. Top-seed Uruguay were upset in their opener by Costa Rica, 3-1. But they should get Luis Suarez back in the starting 11, which adds significant firepower. The English played a solid game in their opening loss to Italy, but lackadaisical marking on the decisive goal proved costly. England has the experience and ability to come away from this match with three points.
6 p.m., Japan vs. Greece: Neither team was expected to compete for a spot in the knockout rounds, but three points are up for grabs in what could prove to be an open match. Japan had a lead in its first tilt but ran out of steam. Greece was held without a goal after scoring just twice in three World Cup matches in 2010. Ultimately, Japan's veteran squad could prove to be too much for the European side.