There had been a feeling going into this World Cup that Spain’s reign was coming to an end but nobody expected it to be in such dramatic circumstances. A humbling 5-1 defeat at the hands of the Netherlands has put the skids under the World and European champions who must now win both of their remaining group matches to guarantee a place in the knockout phase.
A controversial penalty had given the Spaniards a first-half lead and there appeared little danger from the Dutch until a spectacular diving header from Robin Van Persie levelled the game on the stroke of half-time. Spain looked visibly rattled as they headed in for the interval but few would have expected their complete capitulation in the second period.
With Chile their next opponents, Spain are in real danger of exiting the tournament at the group stages. Chile produced a solid display to see off Australia 3-1 and need only a draw on Wednesday to gain a clear advantage over the Champions. Holland had gone into this tournament as 40-1 outsiders but those odds were hastily reassessed after Van Persie and Robben took the Spanish defence apart with some lethal finishing.
The defeat had echoes of a shock defeat in their opening 2010 match against Switzerland. They managed to bounce back from that to go on and win the trophy but the manner of this defeat was far more worrying. There were poor performances all over the pitch from goalkeeper Casillas to striker Diego Costa.
Costa has been linked with a possible £32million move to Premiership side Chelsea and had been struggling with injury prior to the tournament. His performance will certainly not have impressed Jose Mourinho if he has not yet put pen to paper. Costa was lucky to escape action after a senseless attempted headbutt and the penalty that he earned for his side looked very dubious.
It was a nightmare for Keeper Casillas who could do nothing about the brilliant opener from Van Persie but was clearly at fault in presenting the former Arsenal man with his second goal. He has had only limited first team action this season and looked a long way from his best.
The ease with which the Netherlands sliced through Spain’s midfield once they were forced to chase the game was alarming. Spain manager Vicente del Bosque has a huge task on his hands to turn this team into one capable of beating Chile to restore their World Cup ambitions. It will be fascinating to see whether he makes drastic changes or gives the same team a chance to restore some pride.
The Netherlands look certain to book their place in the next round by beating Australia on Wednesday. Their counter-attacking style has seen them cut to as short as 10-1 to win the World Cup with Spain now pushed out to 12-1.