Spain entered the 2014 World Cup with designs on repeating the wonders of its win in South Africa four years ago. After two group-stage losses, it's now set to miss out on the knockout rounds in the ugliest flameout for a defending champion since France in 2002.
The struggles of Spain and the supposed death of its tiki-taka style have been well documented. Yet, while La Furia Roja have been a consistent source of disappointment this week, no single moment of the tournament has summed up their failure more than a missed tap-in on what seemed like a simple goal for defensive midfielder Sergio Busquets in the second half of Wednesday's game vs. Chile.
[Photos: Defending champion Spain eliminated in group stage]
In the 53rd minute, already down 2-0 after a pair of first-half goals, Spain set up for a free kick in good position. Sergio Ramos had his attempt punched away by Chilean goalkeeper and captain Claudio Bravo. A subsequent poor attempt at a clearance sent the ball over to widely reviled Spanish striker and Brazilian native Diego Costa, who nearly turned around two poor games with a stunning bicycle kick. That touch seemingly gave Busquets an easy goal at the far post. It did not go as planned:
In an instant, Spain went from getting back into the game and having a chance to salvage a point to hoping it could create another quality chance. A goal never came, and the match ended with that 2-0 scoreline, giving Chile a spot in the Round of 16 and turning Spain's third match against Australia into nothing more than an opportunity to save face. In its first two matches, Spain has had only one goal — a penalty from Costa to open the scoring in an eventual 5-1 trouncing at the hands of the Netherlands in the opener.
Busquets is definitely not a goalscorer — he has never scored in his 68 caps and has found the back of the net just five times in 179 matches with FC Barcelona. Nevertheless, any player on the pitch would be expected to finish such an opportunity. Spain's difficulties in this tournament go well beyond a missed sitter, but it was a particularly egregious mistake in two matches full of errors.
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