Rodrigo Millar 47
Villa 24, Iniesta 37
Spain beat 10-man Chile to top Group H thanks to two goals in a feisty first half. David Villa and Andres Iniesta were the Spanish scorers as they leapfrogged their opponents on goal difference. Rodrigo Millar pulled one back for Chile, for whom Marco Estrada was dismissed for a second bookable offence.
Fernando Torres headed over in the third minute from Xavi’s deep freekick. Minutes later, Mark Gonzalez fired horribly off target at the other end after Jean Beausejour’s square ball across goal arrived just behind him. Spain went ahead after 24 minutes through a wonderful finish from Villa but it owed a debt to Claudio Bravo’s rush of blood. The Chile keeper dashed out of his goal to clear from Torres on the Spanish left but sent the ball only as far as Villa, who shot first time with his left foot from 45 yards into the empty net. Villa did less well minutes later from long distance, firing well over from a freekick. Gerard Pique headed just over from Xavi’s corner in the 34th minute then did well to get a block on Beausejour’s shot immediately after when the Chile winger broke clear at the other end.
Iniesta doubled Spain’s lead after 37 minutes, stroking into the far corner from Villa’s cutback. In the build up to the goal, Torres was tripped by Marco Estrada who had already been booked. As the Spanish celebrated, referee Marco Rodriguez showed Estrada a second yellow card, leaving Chile a man short and two goals down. Millar pulled a goal back within two minutes of arriving as a half time substitute, his effort from 20 yards deflecting off Pique’s knee and wrong footing Iker Casillas. Villa had less luck with a deflected effort five minutes later, his shot comfortably saved by Bravo. With the score in the Switzerland vs. Honduras game meaning both sides would safely progress, the game fizzled out for the remainder of the second half, with Chile’s 10 men unable to find the momentum to grab an equaliser.
Chile did their best to gift Spain their two-goal half time lead, needlessly giving the ball away for both goals. The Chileans had been on top while the game remained goalless and the Spanish welcomed the gifts readily. Bravo had no need to come so far out of his goal to clear with Gonzalo Jara tracking Torres all the way. Once Bravo had decided to come, he had to put the ball into touch but he gave it straight to Villa and left his goal completely unguarded. It was an excellent finish by a confident striker but Villa had time to take his shot if needed. For the second goal, it was Jara who was to blame. The Chilean defender miscontrolled a routine ball and gave it away to Iniesta who eventually scored after exchanging passes with Torres and Villa. Whilst Spain still had a lot to do to score that goal, they were simply gifted possession in the opposition half.
The decision to award Estrada a second yellow card for his trip on Torres in the build up to the second goal was very harsh but he should not have been on the field at that stage. He appeared to just clip the heels of the Spanish striker accidentally, an innocuous coming together hardly worthy of a booking. Minutes earlier, Estrada escaped without punishment after a poor challenge on Iniesta, catching him late from the side. Having already been booked for going through Sergio Busquets from behind, he used up all his luck by escaping a dismissal for the tackle on Iniesta. Estrada may have been sent off for the wrong reason, but Chile can have few complains over the balance of the three incidents.
Spain now meet neighbours Portugal in the Round of 16. The Portuguese are yet to concede a goal at this World Cup and have kept 16 clean sheets in their last 19 matches. The Spanish have proved to be the masters of patient football but that patience will be tested by such a resilient defence. One area where Portugal’s backline looks relatively week is at right-back, where they fielded a different player in each of their three Group G matches. Having Villa coming off the left flank as has happened in the past two games could again be a successful ploy, although the lack of form shown by Torres may mean Villa plays through the middle with David Silva or Juan Mata on the wing. Torres has looked a shadow of himself so far, struggling to get into any of the matches whether starting or coming off the bench against Switzerland. Spain will hope it is just the temporary result of his recent injuries but they will need him on form in the later round.
Chile face another tricky test, meeting South American rivals Brazil. The Chileans secured victories in qualification against seven of the other nine South American nations in their marathon group, but drew twice with Uruguay and lost both matches against the Brazilians. Having conceded seven goals over those two defeats, they will be the underdogs, and will have to cope without three defensive players through suspension. As well as the red card for Estrada, there were second yellow cards of the competition for Gary Medel and Waldo Ponce. With the heart of the team ripped out, it will be an uphill task against Brazil but Chile will take confidence from having dominated Spain for the first 20 minutes before conceding the opening goal.
South Africa – Bravo, Carizzo, Isla, Medel, Jara, Vidal, Valdivia (Rodrigo Millar 46), Gonzalez (Paredes), Estrada, Sanchez (Orellana 67), Beausejour
Spain – Casillas, Pique, Puyol, Capdevilla, Sergio Ramos, Iniesta, Xavi, Xabi Alonso (Javi Martinez 73), Busquets, Villa, Torres (Fabregas 55)