In his first appearance at the 2014 World Cup, newly acquired New York City FC striker David Villa needed just 36 minutes to score his first goal. Despite opening the scoring in Spain’s 3-0 win over Australia on Monday afternoon, Villa only saw another 21 minutes on the field before being withdrawn by head coach Vicente del Bosque.
Later, TV cameras captured images of Villa on the bench where he had spent so much of the tournament, head in his hands and apparently sobbing. Spain’s all-time leading goalscorer knew that, with La Furia Roja eliminated from the knockout rounds, he had likely played his last game for his country.
“I’d love to play until I’m 55, but I’m aware that that’s impossible,” Villa told reporters in the postgame press conference. “If the coach wants me [back with the national team], I’d love to come back, but I’m a realist.”
Del Bosque explained after the game that Villa was subbed out in an attempt to keep more possession in midfield, a decision that paid off with two beautiful pieces of service to supply Fernando Torres and Juan Mata with a second and third goal.
The damage had already been done to an Australia team doomed to pick up their third consecutive loss. Despite facing a Spanish team that had lost to the Netherlands and Chile by a combined score of 7-1 in their first two games, the Socceroos attack sputtered in the absence of their all-time leading World Cup goalscorer, New York Red Bulls midfielder Tim Cahill, who was suspended after picking up yellow cards in Australia's first two games.
“I think after the first two games, we had to be brave and have a good game against Australia, and I’m happy to score the first goal,” Villa said. “We’re very sad to leave like this, because we wanted to be here longer, but at least we’ve been able to show who we really are today.”
With his World Cup over, Villa’s focus now switches to his club career. With NYCFC’s first season still about eight months away, Villa will spend the fall playing in Australia with A-League club Melbourne City FC.
In his postgame press conference, Australia head coach Ange Postecoglou hailed the move as a key to making the A-League and, by extension, the national team more competitive on the global stage.
But now that the game against Australia is over, and now that Spain is leaving Brazil, Villa’s focus is on the plans ahead.
“Now that the World Cup is over, I’ve decided to move on to MLS and will be without competition for a few months,” Villa said. “After that, I’ll get back to work.”
Translation courtesy of Diego Pinzon.