Chile 1 Spain 2
Chile: Bravo; Medel, Ponce, Jara; Isla, Estrada, Vidal; Beausejour; Sanchez (Orellana 65), Valdivia (Millar 46), Gonzalez (Paredes 46)
Spain: Casillas; Ramos, Pique, Puyol, Capdevila; Busquets, Alonso (Martinez 73); Iniesta, Xavi, Villa; Torres (Fabregas 55)
An enthralling first-half gave way to a dry second period as Spain ran out 2-1 winners over Chile in Pretoria, a result that sees both teams (the two most entertaining sides in the group) go through to the knock-out stages at the expense of Switzerland and Honduras.
Changes for both sides
Vicente Del Bosque made just one change to the eleven that had so comfortably beaten Honduras, the fit-again Andres Iniesta replacing Jesus Navas on the right flank in an alteration that, while understandable, did give the Spanish team, at least on paper, something of a lack of width.
Marcelo Bielsa was forced into making a trio of changes to his starting line-up, Jorge Valdivia replacing Humberto Suazo, who struggled for fitness against Switzerland, in attack with the midfield duo of Mark Gonzalez and Marco Estrada drafted in for the suspended Carlos Carmona and Mathias Fernandez.
Chile impressive early on
In lining up 3-3-1-3 Bielsa got his tactics spot on from the outset in the face of Spain’s lopsided 4-2-3-1 (David Villa being so wide and advanced that it occasionally resembled a 4-2-2-2), wingers Alexis Sanchez and Gonzalez playing typically high up the pitch to suppress the attacking instincts of the Spanish full-backs Sergio Ramos and Joan Capdevila with one of the wing-backs or central midfielders dropping back to create a back four in the defensive phase.
By forcing Ramos and Capdevila into staying relatively deep Chile prevented La Furia Roja from getting the width they needed to get in behind the wing-backs and directly attack the back three. Throughout the early stages of the game Spain looked slightly short of ideas, Ramos in particular unable to get forward like he did to such good effect against Honduras, their rhythm broken up by a Chilean team that was clearly executing its game plan to the letter.
Red card a turning-point
However, all of Chile’s hard work was undone when Claudio Bravo, their goalkeeper, rushed out in an attempt to win the ball from Fernando Torres only for it to fall to Villa who swept into the empty net from thirty yards out.
From that moment on the Chilean discipline dissolved as the players’ frustration grew, their pressing becoming too aggressive and their tackling getting wilder, something which eventually resulted in the dismissal of Estrada towards the end of the first period.
Estrada’s red card saw Chile a man light in the midfield and Iniesta put Spain 2-0 up, but Bielsa made two changes at the break, Valdivia being replaced by Esteban Paredes in a straight swap up front and Rodrigo Millar coming on to plug the gap in the middle at the expense of Gonzalez.
With the changes made, Chile began the second half brightly and got level through a deflected Millar effort just two minutes in. And yet, despite their early riposte, Spain didn’t allow Bielsa’s side many clear sightings of goal, the wingers dropping slightly deeper to handle the Chilean threat out wide.
When Cesc Fabregas replaced Torres with just over half an hour to go Spain adopted a more conservative approach, concentrating on containing Chile and protecting their lead rather than looking to bury the game as it petered out in rather limp fashion.
Last 16 line-up complete
Spain haven’t played their best football during the group phase, but have shown brief glimpses of just how good they can be in all three games. They now progress to the last 16 where they will face Iberian rivals Portugal while, with Switzerland only drawing with Honduras in Bloemfontein, Chile go through to play Brazil in what promises to be an enthralling game on Monday.