Nobody wanted it to end this way — the embarrassment and humbling of a side which has brought so much joy to the world.
“You cannot consider that this generation is finished,” said Spain midfielder Xabi Alonso ahead of its crunch game against Chile. “On the contrary, we are still alive.”
But Alonso’s words rang hollow Wednesday as Spain sank to a 2-0 defeat by Chile at the Maracana — almost as if this generation has now received the last rites.
The end of an unprecedented era of dominance that so captivated the global game, the end of a golden generation of players who dared, succeeded, thrilled and inspired.
Cesc Fabregas had called the Chile match “life or death” and it proved the latter. This night will go down in football history as the night the tiki-taka trailblazers bade farewell.
Reigning champions have, of course, succumbed early before – Italy in 1950 and 2010, Brazil in 1966 and France in 2002 – and losing to the Dutch and Chileans on current form is no disgrace. “We were inferior to both Holland and Chile,” said del Bosque after the match. “They got the goals and gave us a mountain to climb. We were too timid in the first half and did not react sufficiently in the second. The first goal really buoyed them and they really got into our faces.”
The winning side’s stamp on the match began even before the first kick when a group of around 85 Chilean fans broke down barriers outside the Maracana and forced their way inside. In a statement, FIFA said the ticketless fans were quickly apprehended by stadium security and detained. Some of the fans intruded into a media area, knocking over temporary walls to the press center as they forced their way in.
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