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FIFA World Cup: Spain beat Chile 2-1, both teams through to the Last 16

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villa_xavi.jpgSpain and Chile served up a sumptuous 45 minutes of football in the last set of group fixtures at the FIFA World Cup, before the latter were reduced to 10-men and a brilliant contest was curtailed into a wait and watch show. First half goals from David Villa and Andres Iniesta were enough to see Spain usurp top place in Group G and earn a meeting with Portugal in Capetown on Tuesday the 29th of June. Chile fought back to score an early goal in the second half to keep their hopes of qualification alive, and they were happy to join Spain in the last 16 after Switzerland failed to beat Honduras in the simultaneous kick-off at Bloemfontain. As their reward, Chile earned a date with 5-time World Champions Brazil a day earlier in Johannesburg.

Spain made just the one change to the team that beat Honduras 2-0 in their last game with Andres Iniesta, shrugging off his injury to replace Jesus Navas in the starting eleven. The move also meant that the Barcelona multi-purpose man could be deployed on the left side of midfield to track the raking runs of Alexis Sanchez in the Chilean side. Fernando Torres, desperate for a goal or perhaps even a decent showing took his place alongside David Villa at the top end of the pitch.

Chile made three changes to their team, two of which were enforced as Jorge Valdivia and Marco Estrada came into the side for the suspended pairing of Matias Fernandez and Carlos Carmona. CSKA Moscow winger Mark 'Speedy' Gonzalez was rewarded for his winning goal against the Swiss in their last game with a start in place of Humberto Suazo.

The first half was an awesome spectacle of attacking football and a huge relief after that awful game between Brazil and Portugal earlier in the day. Fernando Torres had two early chances to put Spain in the ascendancy, but first missed a header from Xavi's free-kick and then took too long to get his shot away after being played through on goal by a hopeful bunt from the back by Gerard Pique. The second of these chances in the 5th minute saw the Liverpool striker approach the Chile keeper Claudio Bravo, only to dally on the ball and allow a defender to charge back and hack the ball away for a corner.

Back up the other end Chile were just as adventurous, with the move of the game seeing Jean Beausejour slice open the Spanish defence and emerge on his own on the right side of goal after some neat interplay with the full back. His low cross into the 6-yard box was sadly just a little behind Mark Gonzalez, who shot first time with his right foot and missed the target. Minutes later Sanchez produced an audacious chip as he tried to catch Iker Casillas off his line, but the Real Madrid shot stopper tipped the ball around for a corner.

Sadly the next 10 minutes ruined the flow of the game as the referee Marco Rodriguez of Mexico dished out three yellow cards to Chilean players. Gary Medel was unlucky to be the first man to go into the book after Busquets made the most of a challenge. Waldo Ponce then poked a leg at Torres and caught him on the knee, a very foolish booking which will cost him a place in the next match, and he could on another day have even been sent off for a deliberate kick out. However, the most crucial of the three was Marco Estrada, booked for a cynical foul.

Spain finally got the goal this game so richly deserved, but it came in the most surprising fashion as Chile keeper Claudio Bravo charged out of his goal to stop Fernando Torres from getting first to a long ball, but instead of putting it out of play, placed it into the path of an on-rushing David Villa who nonchalantly deposited the ball into the back of the net from 40 odd yards out, first time with his left-foot!

Gerard Pique could have put qualification to rest in the 34th minute, but planted his free header from a corner well over. Just 30 seconds later he was in focus at the other end deflecting a goal bound Beausejour effort for a Chile corner.

iniesta_celebrates.jpgThe first half continued to be bizarre as Andres Iniesta made it to 2-0 to Spain in the 37th minute, sweetly placing a David Villa cut-back into the corner. However, there was drama off the ball as Marco Estrada, who just minutes before had escaped a second yellow for a foul on Busquets, was sent off for tripping Fernando Torres on the edge of the box. It was a harsh call by the ref as replays indicated that there was no intent and it was at best a tangle of legs as both men were looking in the direction of the ball. However, Torres went down like he had been pole-axed, and the ref bought it.

An awesome half ended soon after, and as things stood Switzerland needed to win just 1-0 to qualify alongside Spain for the last 16. Chile made a couple of substitutions at the break, bringing on Esteban Paredes and Rodrigo Millar coming on for Valdivia and Gonzalez. The substitutions paid instant dividends with Millar bringing his side firmly back into contention with a goal from distance, courtesy of a hefty deflection off Gerard Pique.

Chile came hard at Spain despite their numerical disadvantage, but failed to create anything concrete since the goal. Spain took off Fernando Torres in the 55th minute and immediately put a huge ice-pack around his knee, bringing on Arsenal skipper (atleast as things stand) Cesc Fabregas in his place. The Catalan kid almost created an opportunity immediately for David Villa, who lashed out a rare air shot when he perhaps could have tested the keeper.

Both teams appeared content with the way the game stood, and though the slick passing continued, the bite had been taken out of the game. Neither keeper was tested since Chile's early second half goal, and thanks to a goal-less draw in Bloemfontain, Spain and Chile both booked tickets to the last 16.

A thrilling first half, but a disappointing end to a game which had promised a lot. However, the action has only just begun to heat up for both these sides as Spain now have the pleasure of meeting neighbours Portugal in the first knock-out round while Chile collide with their continental mates Brazil in what should be another pulsating encounter.

The Teams:

Chile: Bravo; Isla, Medel, Ponce, Vidal, Gonzalez (Paredes 46'), Estrada, Jara, Valdivia (Millar 46'), Beausejour, Sanchez (Orellana 65').

Spain: Casillas; Ramos, Pique, Puyol, Capdevila; Alonso (Martinez 73'), Xavi, Iniesta, Busquets; Torres (Fabregas 55'), Villa.

Referee: Marco Rodriguez (Mexico)

Scoreline: Spain 2 - 1 Chile
Spain: Villa 24', Iniesta 37'
Chile: Millar 47'

Check out the Points Table

Also Read:

Switzerland 0-0 Honduras - Match Report

Photo by 2010 FIFA World Cup Organising Committee South Africa

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