Australia’s tilt at the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil is over, going down 3-0 to current champions Spain in their Final Group B match at the Arena da Baixada in Curitiba this morning.
Widely expected to be thoroughly beaten in each of their three pool fixtures at the 2014 World Cup, a young, fresh faced Australian squad made a great name of themselves with hard-fought performances against Chile and the Netherlands and approached their final match with similar confidence.
Having also been eliminated after slumping to defeats at the hands of the Oranje and Chileans, Spain were looking to take their frustrations out on the young Socceroos, salvaging at least some pride ahead of the long trip back to their European home.
In Australia’s impressive 2-3 loss to Holland last week, aggression and maintaining possession was the key to frustrating their opposition and allowing for several good chances on goal. Attempting to employ the same game plan to their match with Spain, the Socceroos burst from the gates, immediately taking the game to the Spanish half but unable to finish off a good early opportunity.
Patiently defending, Spain quickly turned the run of play through the midfield, maintaining possession and allowing several key attacking raids from David Villa and Fernando Torres, which were each impressively snuffed out by a scrambling Australian defence.
Continuing to lay the pressure on the young back four, Spain came within inches of breaking the deadlock on several occasions; most notably denied by a last-ditch effort from defender Alex Wilkinson just 20 minutes in and the fast reflexes of goal keeper Mat Ryan approaching the half-hour mark.
Unable to break off the back foot, Australia’s defence noticeably tired with each proceeding defence of their goal, but continued to look as though they would find the break on a level pegging before a pinpoint accurate cross from Torres found an unmarked Villa just metres from Ryan’s line, coolly slotted with an impressive back heel to put La Furia Roja a goal up at the break.
Beginning the second half in similarly positive fashion to that of the first, Australia attempt to catch Spain napping, and were offered a few good chances via piercing runs from substitute Ben Halloran, who took the place of Adam Taggart when returning from the break.
When shining light Tommy Oar was forced from the field with half an hour left on the clock, Australian heads appeared to sink as Spain upped the pressure and continued to find good space behind the Socceroo’s defence.
Manchester United man Juan Mata’s introduction added another dimension of play through the Spanish midfield, peaking with an impressive through ball for Torres which was comfortably converted to put the game out of reach for the Australians.
Keeping the ball at the edge of Australia’s 18-yard box, Mata was rewarded for his efforts further when finishing off a solo run to put Spain out to a 3-0 lead in the 82nd minute; easily overcoming a clearly tired and down Australian defence.
The introduction in David Silva ten minutes from time could have opened to flood gates for a few late Spanish goals, as the slippery Manchester City playmaker easily weaved in and out of the Socceroos and came within centimetres of adding another.
The final whistle couldn’t come quick enough for the Australians, and with it came the end of World Cup duties for veteran Socceroos Tim Cahill and Mark Bresciano, who will likely retire from International football following the 2015 Asian Cup.