Australia and Spain heading for home

BEN STANLEY IN CURITIBA, BRAZIL
Last updated 08:45 24/06/2014
David Villa
Reuters Zoom
David Villa puts Spain 1-0 up against Australia with a neat back heel past Australia's Mathew Ryan.
Jason Davidson
Getty
SAD FAREWELL: Jason Davidson of Australia acknowledges the fans after being defeated by Spain 3-0 at the World Cup this morning.

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The early afternoon sun may have been shining in Curitiba, but for both Australia and Spain, the shadows of this World Cup had been cast long before a ball was kicked today.

For Australia, the shadows were small ones. Tipped to be humbled in all three Group B clashes, the Socceroos had already earned the respect of the footballing world with gutsy, and entertaining, defeats to both Chile and Holland.

But for the world champion Spanish, the darkness that began on the pitch in Salvador, where they were embarrassed 5-1 by Holland, will extend all the way back to their home country.

Manager Vincente del Bosque, once the saviour of Spanish football, will feel the axe, while the nucleus of the European giant's golden generation - Xavi, Iker Casillas and David Villa - will likely be put out to pasture.

That all made Spain's win over the Socceroos the most deflating 3-0 victory you're likely to see at a World Cup.

It had the touches of class - think Villa's sumptuous back heel to score Spain's opener, and Juanfran's consistently creative runs from the backline - but even a cartoonishly good performance in Curitiba would have been anti-climatic.

Indeed: this year's version of the Spanish national football team are like that old vinyl of your favourite record.

One you've absolutely loved over the years - let's say a classic like Led Zeppelin II.

When you pull it out of the sleeve, all looks fine - but as soon as the needle hits the groove, you know something is off.

The record is scratched and skips repeatedly, with some songs completely missing and unable to be enjoyed. Plenty of 'Heartbreaker,' but no 'Ramble On.'

As much as you want to listen and reminisce about the good old days, the record is buggered. Time for a new one.

"This is the end of a six-year cycle for us," del Bosque, looking every inch the fallen king, admitted in a gloomy post-match press conference.

The Spanish manager provided the game's best image today - standing absolutely emotionless in the dugout as Juan Mata scored his side's third goal.

"There will be another champion," del Bosque said. "And they will lose one day too."

As for the Australians, today's effort was a shadow of what they produced in Porto Alegre against the Dutch, and for the majority of their opener against Chile in Cuiaba.

After those two fantastic encounters, the Socceroos looked drained of energy; managing to stay competitive for the first 15 minutes of today's much, before the tired limbs became abundantly apparent.

With talismanic veteran Tim Cahill out of the clash with a second yellow, it was like their heart had been scooped out too - with a distinct lack of verve and creativity throughout.

Not that that Australia should be ashamed, though. The Socceroos have carried themselves with an enviable composure and guts in Brazil, with young guns like Tommy Oar, Matt Leckie and keeper Mat Ryan - even though he let in a total of nine goals - likely to form the nucleus of a new era in the national side.

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Shame the Australia fans, thought to number more than 15,000 in Brazil, didn't show the same level of class.

Footage of Aussie fans clashing with Brazilians at the Porto Alegre fan zone, jeering the locals after their 0-0 draw with Mexico, appeared on Brazilian television - while their boos of the A-League bound Villa, a true servant to the game of football, when he was subbed off in likely his final international, were downright embarrassing.

But any narrative coming out of Curitiba was already in the shade anyway, as far as the rest of Brazil was concerned.

The majority of the nation was crowded around televisions in homes and bars watching the Holland versus Chile game in Sao Paulo, and revelling in the excitement of two nations that could do a lot of damage later on in this World Cup.

The game in Curitiba, meanwhile, wasn't even being played live. Says it all for Spain, really.

- Stuff

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