With Spain and Australia both eliminated from the World Cup after their first two group-stage matches, their final match against each other had the atmosphere and intensity of a kickaround on the beach with another lonely person sitting on the next towel over. The lame duck champions started with Pepe Reina in goal in place of the sieve-like Iker Casillas and several other young players were given a chance to begin the team's future. But veteran striker David Villa helped try to end this World Cup implosion on a positive note with a delightful little goal in the 36th minute.
Finding himself in a shameful amount of free space in the middle of the box, New York City FC's first signing flicked a pass from Juanfran into the net with a sidefooted shot from behind his left leg in what was his final international match.
Villa, who is Spain all-time leading scorer with 59 goals, was substituted just before the hour mark and was in tears when he reached the bench. He made his debut with Spain in 2005 and won both the 2010 World Cup and Euro 08 with the team (a fractured tibia kept him out of Euro 2012).
— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) June 23, 2014
Spain won 3-0, with Fernando Torres and Juan Mata scoring the last two goals. The three points, which come after Spain became the first World Cup holders to lose their first two group-stage matches, will make their performance at this tournament look a little better on paper than it actually was.
As disappointing as this showing was for Spain, the future remains bright. At least a few of the players who led them to two Euro titles and the country's first World Cup win in the last six years — Villa, Xavi and others — will be moving on, making room for a new crop of extraordinarily talented players. But as Villa's reaction to being substituted showed, it's still a sad and quiet farewell to the players that have made up the core of one of the greatest teams ever.