Spain’s six-year dominance of world soccer ended with a historic jolt.
After a period where the team won two European Championships and a World Cup, Spain yesterday became the first squad ousted from the tournament in Brazil.
The 2-0 defeat to Chile makes Spain the first champion in the 84-year history of the competition to exit before playing its last group game. It set another unwanted mark June 13 with a 5-1 loss to the Netherlands, the worst start to a title defense for a World Cup holder.
Led by players from Barcelona and Real Madrid -- soccer’s two richest clubs -- Spain’s streak began with the 2008 European Championship, continued with the World Cup in South Africa in 2010 and included another European title two years ago.
“We didn’t know how to sustain that conviction, that hunger,” said Xabi Alonso, a Real Madrid player who was substituted at halftime yesterday. “Probably the degree of success and happiness was already fulfilled and completed.”
Spain’s squad, the 25th oldest out of 32 at the tournament, included players from the World Cup-winning roster including Barcelona’s Xavi Hernandez and Andres Iniesta, whose extra time goal in the 2010 final against the Netherlands won the game.
“Spain has played very well over the years, they had wonderful performances, but today that generation of players couldn’t keep that success,” Chile coach Jorge Sampaoli told reporters. “It’s normal: success isn’t forever.”
The loss came on the eve of the swearing in at the National Parliament in Madrid of 46-year-old Felipe de Borbon as king in succession to his father, Juan Carlos. What could’ve been a great celebration may now be more subdued.
“This has been a great team and one that has brought us so much pleasure, but there has to be a renewal now,” said Oscar Carmona, a 22-year-old student who watched the match on a big screen outside Real Madrid’s Bernabeu stadium. “The result is going to make the mood of the country sad for the proclamation of the new king.”
Iniesta’s father, Jose Antonio, said the setback doesn’t mean the end for his son’s squad.
“A few of the players are getting old, like Xavi and Xabi Alonso,” he said by phone from Fuentealbilla, Spain. “But this is like if Rafael Nadal loses the French Open; it doesn’t mean he is finished.”
The only other champions to be eliminated at the group stage of the following edition were Italy in 1950 and 2010, Brazil in 1966 and France in 2002.
Chile advances to the round of 16 with the Netherlands, which beat Australia 3-2 in in Porto Alegre yesterday. The Dutch and Chile are tied on six points and will play June 23 to decide the Group B winner.
After 60 minutes of play at Rio de Janeiro’s Maracana stadium, Chile fans began to taunt the Spanish with cheers of “Ole” every time players exchanged passes and chants of “elimination” as the opposition labored.
“We started with a sluggish rhythm,” Spain coach Vicente del Bosque said. “We were too shy. We were not brave enough and it’s a pity. I didn’t expect that.”
The crowd outside the FIFA Fan Fest in Rio de Janeiro erupted at the end of the game. People danced on Copacabana’s beachside avenue, blocking traffic and chanting “Viva Chile.”
The South American country beat its former colonial master for the first time in 10 attempts stretching back to the 1950 World Cup, which was also held in Brazil.
“We could’ve lost to the Netherlands or Australia, but not Spain,” said Christian Munoz, 32, who traveled five days over land to Rio with his parents and daughter. “That is our pride: having defeated the world champions.”