Defending champion Spain salvaged some World Cup pride on Monday with a convincing 3-0 victory over Australia in their last match at the tournament.
After losing their previous matches in Group B to the Netherlands and Chile, both teams took to Arena da Baixada in the southern Brazilian city of Curitiba knowing they could not advance to the second round.
David Villa, on his 97th and final appearance put Spain ahead in the 36th minute with his record 59th goal, guiding Juanfran Torres’ pass into the net with the inside of his right foot. Juanfran had been found by a typically incisive pass by Andres Iniesta.
Iniesta was at the heart of the second goal too, providing the pass for Fernando Torres to steer the ball past Australia goalkeeper Maty Ryan in the 69th minute.
Juan Mata added the third in the 82nd from close range after he was found in space by Cesc Fabregas. And David Silva went close to making it four in the 89th but his shot from just outside the Australia penalty area went just wide.
Though nothing rested on the game, Spain showed some of the clever passing football that has seen it dominate the game over the past six years — winning Euro 2008, its first World Cup in South Africa in 2010 and then Euro 2012.
With that domination now at an end, the task facing Spain coach Vicente del Bosque is to manage the transition from an aging squad that has won everything in the game — to a new generation of players waiting to take center stage.
Bosque, who reshuffled his lineup for the match, said: “There are still players who can help the team a lot and while we have to be aware of the younger players coming through, we shouldn’t write off anybody.”
In the early minutes of the match, Australia took the game to the champions, but it wasn’t long before Spain took control and started dominating possession.
“We started bright enough but you have to give credit to them, they are a quality team,” Australia coach Ange Postecoglou said. “We looked jaded, tired, and gave away the ball too easily, so it’s disappointing.”
As a result of its victory, Spain avoided the worst World Cup title defense in history. That label remains with the France team of 2002, which only secured one point in its goal-less campaign in the tournament co-hosted by South Korea and Japan.
“What happened is in the past now,” Spain midfielder Xabi Alonso said. “We tried to face our situation in the best manner possible. This is football, though, and we go home sad.”