Admit it. When this World Cup started, you may have had Spain going a long way in the tournament and preparing for the knockout round following a decisive win over Australia. Don’t be ashamed. A lot of people thought Spain would advance at least to the round of eight or perhaps the semifinals. Instead, after this game against Australia on Monday, the Spaniards are headed home for a lot of soul-searching.
This Group B game is meaningless. Both teams have already been eliminated following lackluster showings against the top two teams in the group. In fact, Spain allowed seven goals and scored only one in two devastating losses to the Netherlands and Chile. You could even argue Spain wasn’t quite the same team following the loss to the Netherlands.
Instead of looking to make a deep run in the knockout rounds, Spain will instead look for small consolation in the final match, where we might see the seeds sown for the 2018 World Cup squad. With nothing to play for in this game, manager Vicente Del Bosque may empty his bench and play some athletes who didn’t get a chance to shine in the tournament (not that anyone really stood out).
Iker Casillas, the goalkeeper for Real Madrid, will take a seat following a disastrous outing. He has already notified Real Madrid that he will leave the team following the 2015 season, and it’s a good thing. Spanish soccer fans may be ready to toss him off a cliff following his effort. Instead, Pepe Reina will get a chance to show off his skills. Del Bosque has also said midfielder Xavi Hernandez will miss this contest due to muscle problems.
At this rate, Spain might as well make changes. What has the team got to lose that it didn’t already?
The Australians, who also lost to the Netherlands and Chile and was outscored 6-3 in those two games, will miss leading scorer Tim Cahill thanks to two yellow cards accumulated in this tournament.
Projection: Spain 2, Australia 0
With nothing to lose and a relaxed atmosphere, look for Spain to make a recovery. Another loss would be a wholescale disaster for the country and for the soccer program, and heads would undoubtedly roll figuratively as a result. Instead, Spain will show off some of their future stars and get fans interested in the future instead of dwelling on the past.
Sadly, it may be too late. The defending World Cup champions have a lot of explaining to do, and one win won’t make it go away. One loss could make it worse.