World Cup post-game: Spain 2, Chile 1
European champion Spain is through to the knockout stage of the FIFA World Cup, courtesy of a 2-1 win over 10-man Chile on Friday in Pretoria, South Africa.
Spain claimed first place in Group H ahead of Chile, which also qualified for the second round. Both teams finished with six points, but the Spaniards won the tiebreaker by virtue of a better goal difference (+2 to +1).
In the other group game Friday, Switzerland and Honduras played to a 0-0 draw in Bloemfontein. Both teams were eliminated.
After a slow start, Spain has poured on the style in South Africa.
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The reigning European champions suffered a shocking 1-0 loss to Switzerland in their opening match, a result that had critics questioning Spain's status as tournament favourite.
But a two-goal effort by forward David Villa in a crucial win over Honduras restored Spain's pride and honour, and it's hard to imagine where the Spaniards would be now if not for the efforts of the striker they call El Guaje, The Kid.
Villa put on a master-class performance against the Hondurans, and he was at it again on Friday versus the attack-minded Chileans, scoring one of the best goals of the tournament — a cheeky effort from 40 yards out that will have fans talking for days.
Villa is one of the game's truly undervalued talents. For years he's toiled at Valencia, quietly scoring goals for fun and going about his business, while more high-profile contemporaries, such as Fernando Torres, stole all the headlines.
But Villa, who has signed to play with FC Barcelona at the start of the new Spanish season this summer, is the true star of this team, carrying the offensive burden squarely on his shoulders and outshining the ineffective Torres.
The future Barcelona star is now Spain's all-time leading scorer at the World Cup, with six goals, and his 41 goals in 61 appearances in international play is the envy of the strikers around the world, Torres included.
What this result means
Spain wins Group H with six points, ahead of Chile (also with six points), Switzerland (four points) and Honduras (one point).
Spain meets Portugal, the runner-up from Group G, in the next round, while Chile faces Group G winner Brazil.
The winning goal
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Andres Ineista's strike in the 27th minute held up as the winner, the FC Barcelona midfielder side-footing the ball into the back of the net from the top of the penalty area. The buildup to the goal saw some lovely passing by the Spaniards, with Chile's Marco Estrada earning a second yellow card for a foul on Fernando Torres.
The turning point
Down two goals and reduced to 10 men when Estrada was sent off, Chile appeared to be dead to the world and ripe to be torn further apart by the Spaniards.
But Rodrigo Millar's goal for Chile two minutes into the second half saw the South Americans put pressure on Spain for the first time, and suddenly it was an entirely new game.
Goal of the match
In the 27th minute, defender Sergio Ramos played a long ball forward out the left flank for Torres. Chile goalkeeper Claudio Bravo rushed out of his box to deny the forward and cleared the ball away, but it landed at the feet of Villa, who fired home into an empty net from 40 yards out.
Man of the match
Villa now has scored three times at this tournament, accounting for all but one of Spain's goals.
The Spanish perspective
"We have a unique opportunity. The team has demonstrated a good attitude. The [match] with Portugal is difficult." — midfielder Andres Iniesta
The Chilean perspective
"It was even until the ejection [of Marco Estrada]. Spain's goals weren't just down to their own merit." — coach Marcelo Bielsa