Too little, too late, but Spain showed at last that their vaunted attack isn’t quite dead yet. Thanks to goals from New York City FC striker David Villa, Fernando Torres and Juan Mata, La Furia Roja finished their World Cup with a 3-0 victory against Australia after losing their first two games by a combined score of 7-1.
Deprived of top goalscorer Tim Cahill due to a yellow-card suspension, the sputtering Australian attack couldn’t prevent the Socceroos from finishing the tournament at the bottom of their group with three losses, while Spain avoided becoming the first reigning champions in World Cup history to lose every game of their title defense.
SECOND GUESSING: Through two games, Spain started Diego Costa as their lone striker in a 4-2-3-1. They got stomped. On Monday, they came out in a 4-3-3 and an almost entirely different lineup, with Costa sitting in favor of Torres and Villa. Both of them scored. It’s perhaps not entirely inappropriate to question whether head coach Vicente del Bosque couldn’t have made some of these changes earlier.
PASSING OFF: Spain’s usual midfield playmaker, Xavi, sat out what might have been his last opportunity to play for his country on Monday, ceding his role to younger FC Barcelona teammate, Andrés Iniesta. Movement through the midfield was much more dynamic, and Iniesta showed his quality with two super through-balls to assist on Spain’s first two goals.
Spain leads Australia 1-0 at the half. Here's a look at the 14-pass build-up to David Villa's 1st-half goal: pic.twitter.com/LMEOlNSooE— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) June 23, 2014
RETREAT, AUSTRALIA FAIR: The Socceroos came out swinging on Monday, holding most of the early possession and looking totally unafraid of the reigning World Champions. Very little of that possession was in Spain’s half, though, and as the game went on it became more and more apparent that Australia didn’t have the personnel to really threaten goal. Passing accuracy in the final third was less than 50 percent, and all of their shots came from outside the area. None were on target.
ADIEUS: This result concludes the World Cup campaigns of both Spain and Australia. We wish them both farewell.
MAN OF THE MATCH: Andrés Iniesta, Spain – The Barcelona playmaker has still got it. Both goals he assisted on were well-taken – particularly Villa’s classy backheel – but they were set up by sparkling service from Iniesta.