The last time the Spanish played a meaningful game in South Africa was June 28, 2009, where they deafeated the host nation to take third place in the FIFA Confederations Cup just a mere four days following one of the biggest upsets in modern soccer history. Not to preach to the choir but I’m speaking of when the United States defeated Spain 2-0 in a game in which the Spanish were not even supposed to be challenged.
The Confederations Cup is considered the warm-up to the larger scale affair that occurs the following year and possibly could have been foretelling for the Spanish side. One year later they have been upset by the 24th ranked nation Switzerland in a match that shared many qualities of the American upset.
The Swiss have achieved one of the most notables stories yet in this year’s (somewhat defensive) edition of the FIFA World Cup. La Furia Roja, or the Red Fury, as the Spanish selection is known were considered by many to be the favorites to win it all; even more considering that Switzerland was without their top striker Alexander Frei, who has 40 goals for the national team . But this all changed in the 51th minute of this encounter off a bizarre series in which Gelson Fernandes, born in Cape Verde off the coast of Western Africa, put the ball into the back of Iker Casillas’s net.
The name of the game for this Swiss in this match was defend. Then after they defended for a while, they wanted to defend just a bit more. However, the Swiss defend as fine as the famous chocolate produced in their country demonstrated in the 2006 campaign as they allowed no goals in four games before being eliminated on penalties by Ukraine.(Thanks Gerry)
Spain played exceptionally well in their opening match just as they had against the United States. They showed great skill in passing as well as on ball skills that allowed Spanish players some openings in the box only to denied by the Swiss defense or simply bad luck. Separate plays from Pique, Iniesta, and Silva were all denied by the stingy defense. 9 times out of 10, Spain will walk out victorious from a match like this but today was Switzerland’s day as they almost doubled their advantage in the 74th minute but Derdiyok placed his shot just inches wide. However, the result stood sending Swizterland to the top of group H.
Elsewhere in South Africa and in Group H, Honduras and Chile squared off in the first all Latin American match-up of the tournament in a contest that turned out to be an open, albeit low scoring match.
Chile, making their first World Cup appearance since 1998, immediately impressed with their clever passing and good possession keeping the Hondurans on their heels for the good part of the first half. Honduras had some decent looking counters but were marred by poor decision making in the final third and never really seemed to be threatening. Honduras’ Pavon and Alvarez were fleet of foot but seemed to long for the quality of the injured Carlo Costly, who has 14 goals for his country.
The Chileans, while missing the leading scorer in CONMEBOL World Cup Qualifying, Humberto Suazo, showed a lot of quality and were rewarded with a goal in the 34th minute as a Honduran clearance was deflected into Chile’s Jean Beausejour and into the back of the net on a beautiful cross by Mauricio Isla.
Despite some more positive play in the second half, Honduras couldn’t get the goal back and salvage a tie and Chile got their first World Cup finals victory since 1962 when the event too place in Chile. In that tournament, they finished in 3rd place and are now in good position to advance to the round of 16.
Following these results, Spain and Honduras now sit in the Group H Basement while Chile and Switzerland seem confident to advance but each country has 2 games remaining and Spain will be looking to avenge their loss while Honduras will try to salvage what they can.
Filed under: World Cup 2010 |