Villa 17, 50
Spain cruised to victory over Honduras in a match that should have been won by more than the two-goal margin. David Villa scored twice and missed a penalty as the Spanish comfortably saw off their inferior opponents.
In a first half completely dominated by Spain , it took just six minutes for Villa to come close to scoring a wonderful goal. Shooting from 30 yards out, he caressed the ball goalwards but it came back off the bar. In the 11th minute, Sergio Ramos got his head to Xavi’s cross but put it over. After 14 minutes, Villa ran at Sergio Mendoza, cutting on to his right foot but shot wide of the far post. Three minutes later Villa tried again and this time it was perfection. Receiving the ball on the left wing, he beat Mendoza then cut inside Osman Chavez before curling beautifully into the far top corner. Fernando Torres had two good chances within 60 seconds in the 33rd minute, first heading Ramos’ cross wide at the far post, then turning Chavez before skying the ball over from the edge of the area.
It was 2-0 just five minutes after half time thanks to Villa’s second of the game. Jesus Navas squared the ball to Villa on the edge of the area and his shot deflected off the knee of Chavez and looped over Noel Valladares in the Honduran goal. Moments later, Ramos burst forward but fired just wide from 20 yards. Villa had a chance at a hattrick after an hour but he fired narrowly wide from the penalty spot having sent Valladares the wrong way. Emilio Izaguirre had tripped Jesus Navas just inside the box to concede the spot kick. Cesc Fabregas was brought on after 65 minutes and almost had an immediate impact, rounding Valladares but seeing his shot desperately cleared off the line by Chavez. Villa had another chance to make it three from a Navas cross late on but Mendoza got a crucial block in with four minutes remaining.
Spain lined up with a traditional winger in Navas playing from the right and a forward in Villa playing from the left. The variance in styles between the two players offered two different threats for the Honduran fullbacks to cope with, and it was Villa who caused the bulk of the problems before half time. With Ramos getting forward at will in support of Navas, Honduran left-back Izaguirre was in danger of being completely overrun but it was Sergio Mendoza on the other flank who was having a torrid time. Villa’s instinct was always to cut inside and look for a shot, with his quick feet enabling him to shift his defender one way then another in search of the right angle to let fly. Navas was always looking to get a cross in, something that worked better against Switzerland when both Villa and Torres were up front but less so tonight with just one target to aim for.
The second half was little more than an exhibition match, with Honduras opening up more at the back and Spain trying to score the perfect goal. Several Spanish attacks failed to end in an almost certain goal with there always being one more pass to attempt before anyone was prepared to shoot. There was never any real danger once Villa had made it 2-0 that their profligacy would be punished by the Hondurans, and any Spain win over Chile on Friday will lift their goal difference above their opponents to seal qualification to the next round. The gulf between the two teams was certainly worth more than the two-goal margin but Spain will be happy enough with the performance and would surely have been more ruthless if it had mattered.
For all the exceptional quality of his play, Villa’s game could have been remembered instead for a red card had the referee seen him tangle with Izaguirre shortly before half time. Awaiting a freekick delivery from Xavi, Izaguirre appeared to tread on Villa’s foot to which the Spanish striker reacted with a little slap to the face. Izaguirre took eight seconds before going to ground, eventually deciding that this would aid his cause in getting the attention of the referee. He then proceeded to indicate that he had been elbowed in the face. Yuichi Nishimura and his assistant had both been unsighted but had he seen the slap, he would have had to consider sending Villa off given that it was a strike to the face. Izaguirre’s playacting was pathetic, following on from Kader Keita’s on Sunday against Brazil and Arturo Vidal’s earlier on against Switzerland, but Villa could have left his team a man short had the referee’s attention not been elsewhere.
A tougher test awaits Spain on Friday against the Chileans and with the Swiss clear favourites to beat Honduras, a win is an absolute must. Should Spain and Switzerland both win their games, there would be a three-way tie on points in Group H. The Spanish would be guaranteed a place in the next round on goal difference but the margin of their victory and that of the Swiss would decide whether Spain would finish first or second. Given that their next round opponents will almost certainly be Portugal or Brazil, it is hard to say that either offers an advantage after the Portuguese struck seven times against Korea DPR earlier. The bottom line is that Spain must win. Honduras still have an unlikely outside chance but they would need to beat the Swiss and hope Chile beat Spain.
Spain – Iker Casillas – Sergio Ramos (Arbeloa, 76), Pique, Puyol, Capdevila – Jesus Navas, Xabi Alonso, Xavi (Fabregas, 65), Busquets – Torres (Mata, 70), Villa
Honduras – Valladares – Mendoza, Chavez, Figueroa, Izaguirre – Turcios (Nunez, 63), Palacios, Guevara, Espinoza (Welcome, 45) – Martinez – Suazo (Jerry Palacios, 84)