Fernando Torres scored as Spain rounded off their dismal defence of the World Cup with a 3-0 win over Australia.
El Nino played the whole ninety minutes as Vicente Del Bosque looked to give those who had not featured much previously the chance to play in a World Cup the Spanish would rather forget. Stamford Bridge new boy Cesc Fabregas would only get 22 minutes of action, while Cesar Azpilicueta watched on from the bench.
With the embarrassment of not only falling at the first hurdle in a group they were expected to advance from, but finishing bottom of said group looming large, a big performance from La Roja was needed against an Australian side who more than held their own in a group they were widely expected to prop up.
Spain made seven changes to the side that were eliminated against Chile, with Pepe Reina starting in goal ahead of Iker Casillas. Juanfran replaced Azpilicueta at right back, while Javi Martinez was replaced by Raul Albiol. Koke came in for Barcelona’s Sergio Busquets in midfield, while Santi Cazorla, David Villa and Fernando Torres all starting ahead of David Silva, Pedro and Chelsea target Diego Costa.
The atmosphere was befitting of the game – the crowd, knowing the game meant nothing, gave the game a testimonial feel, while the players looked quite flat and bereft of motivation given how there was nothing to play for.
The first half an hour was uncharacteristically poor from the Spaniards, their play littered with slack passes, a lack of imagination to break down the Aussie defence and an uncertainty at the back which plagued their opening two games. It was in truth a poor first half, with the Socceroos really struggling to capitalise on a shellshocked Spanish side without their talismanic suspended captain Tim Cahill.
Spain finally kicked into life with David Villa netting after 36 minutes. Andres Iniesta played a lovely ball to the overlapping Juanfran, who cut the ball back to Villa who provided a great improvised finish flummoxing Aussie keeper Mat Ryan.
As the young Australian side tired as the improving Spanish hit their tiki-taka stride, it became increasingly clear that there was only going to be one outcome come the final whistle.
David Villa was substituted after 57 minutes for Chelsea old boy Juan Mata in what was to be the former Barcelona and Atletico Madrid striker’s final national team appearance. He was visibly distraught and needed to be consoled by his team-mates as his career with Spain fizzled out.
However, the Spanish looked reinvigorated with Mata’s introduction and were eventually rewarded for their dominance after 69 minutes. Iniesta supplied an inch-perfect pass for Torres who slotted home to double their lead. It was Nando’s first World Cup goal since 2006.
Cesc Fabregas entered the fray for Santi Cazorla after Torres’ goal and his cameo yielded the final goal. He crossed in a delicious ball in for ex-Chelsea man Mata, who barely looked at the goal before prodding it past Ryan.
It was some solace to Vicente Del Bosque et al that they finished the tournament with a win, albeit against the lowest ranked side in the tournament. It will be interesting to see how well the Stamford Bridge trio can react to their massively disappointing World Cup campaign – will Torres, Fabregas and Azpi be fired up and looking to bounce back, or will they return to SW6 with their head in their hands? Only time will tell.