The reigning World Champions Spain kicked off the defence of their title against an underrated and in some cases (myself included) written off Netherlands side. With a trio of official Chelsea players in their 23 man squad and a potential fourth by the time the tournament comes to a close only Cesar “Dave” Azipilicueta made the starting line up.
Spain started the match in a predictable manor keeping the ball with relative ease however, it was the Netherlands who had the first chance with Robben slipping in Sneijder, the Galatasaray play maker went one on one against Iker Casillas but he could only muster up a tame shot which was saved by the outstretched hand of the keeper.
According to many media outlets Diego Costa to Chelsea is a done deal and the Brazilian born striker was looking particularly sharp off the ball in the opening half an hour. A few great runs off the shoulder of the Dutch defenders meant the array of Spanish midfield maestros found no trouble in picking him out. This combination was ultimately how the first goal of the game was created. Costa, coming in from the left hand side, evaded de Vrij and was set free by a trademark piercing through ball from Xavi. Costa gathered the ball and cut inside onto his favoured right foot, only to be brought down by the trailing leg of de Vrij. Penalty, which Xabi Alonso duly converted.
Andres Iniesta played a sublime through ball which put David Silva through on goal. Unlike Sneijder, Silva showed a calmness and confidence in front of goal, however Cillessen made a great save as the Ajax keeper stayed big as Silva tried to dink the ball over him. This was the defining moment of the match and I’m sure the outcome would have been very different if the City player had converted.
The game was fizzling out as half-time loomed. Spain were looking to sit on their one nil lead and go again after the break, but a moment of joint brilliance from Robin Van Persie and Daley Blind stopped the champions doing just that. Blind gathered the ball just in front of the half way line wide on the left hand side. Spotting Van Persie breaking in the middle, the Dutch wing-back produced a great ball over the top of defence to pick out the United striker who instinctively leapt like a salmon to take the ball on his head just inside the eighteen yard box, lobbing the stranded Casillas. The flying Dutchman, 1-1.
As the saying goes there’s no worse time to concede a goal than just before half-time and this was truly evident as the second-half unfolded. Only 10 people (According to Paddy Power) could of predicted the final score at half-time and some score it was.
The Netherlands looked fresher and hungrier than their Spanish opponents as the match resumed. In the 53rd minute Daley Blind was again free on the left hand side and picked out Arjen Robben who had made a great run to find himself in between Pique and Ramos. Robben controlled the ball brilliantly just outside the box, and then turned Pique in knots before putting the ball straight down the middle of the goal with a little help from a Ramos deflection, Netherlands had taken a truly deserved lead. Just a few minutes later Van Persie stung the bar with a powerful shot from his weaker right foot inside the area.
Del Bosque looked to shake things up just after the hour mark by bringing off Chelsea bound Costa and introducing potentially outward bound Torres. But the first thing Torres had to do was help console his team mates as Spain went 3-1 down. Sneijder whipped in a brilliant free kick deep from the left wing which evaded the flapping Casillas (who was arguably impeded by Van Persie) with de Vrij on hand to convert from a tight angle.
New signing Cesc Fabregas was introduced into the fold on the 78th minute. With his new Mourinho link and Chelsea connection it will be interesting to see if his departure from Barcelona harms his national team selection.
It went from bad to worse for Spain and their legendary captain as a simple back pass from Ramos was miss controlled by Casillas, Van Persie pounced on the error and poked it into the net to make it four. Ramos and Casillas were again stranded as former blue Robben burst through their defence like a road runner to go through on goal, in typical Robben style he did it the hard way, leaving Casillas break dancing on the floor as the Dutchman rounded and smashed the ball past Ramos and Pique on the line. The Madrid keeper went a small way to redeeming himself by making two good saves in quick succession from Wijnaldum and a wonderful Robben volley.
Torres tried his best to make it even more embarrassing for the Spaniards by somehow fluffing a brilliant opportunity from four yards to reduce the deficit.
From a Chelsea player perspective there’s not much to take from this game that we as fans don’t already know. Azpilicueta had no involvement in the five goals Spain conceded but in the mean time was neat and tidy on the ball and made a number of interceptions. Diego Costa was lively in the opening minutes but faded as the game progressed, probably due to the fact the conclusion of his season was hampered by injury. Cesc was put into the firing line late on when the result had already been decided so it would be unfair to critique his performance. Fernando Torres’ cameo was much reminiscent of his Chelsea form, sharp in patches but still lacking the composure of a confident and prolific striker.
Spain face Chile on Wednesday, which is already a must win if the World Champions have any intention of retaining their crown.