Ramos Pique Puyol Capdevila
Iniesta Xavi Villa
Medel Ponce Jara
Isla Estrada Vidal
Sanchez Beausejour Gonzalez
Disappointing, but not entirely surprising, to see the game end not with a bang but a whimper after the first 50 minutes. 2-1 suited both sides just fine, especially with Switzerland and Honduras unable to conjure a goal between them.
But the first 24 minutes couldn't have been more frightening for the Spanish. After Torres missed two early chances – an awkward header well over and unable to take advantage of Jara letting a long punt bounce, only to see his shot deflected – Chile began to beat Spain at its own game, keeping possession with some lovely touches and perpetually driving towards goal.
And at the same time, Chile stormed into tackles, ensuring Spain had little possession, but also seeing three players incur yellows (including one reminiscent of Beckham's infamous 1998 sending off) before Villa scored a wonder goal against the run of play. Alonso's perfect long-range throughball nearly put Torres in, requiring a Bravo charge outside his box to dive in and clear. But Villa picked up possession 50 yards from goal, looked up, and somehow hit a pinpoint shot with his weaker foot into an empty net. There's a reason he's nicknamed Maravilla.
The strike knocked Chile back and further frazzled tempers, and Estrada should have seen a second yellow three minutes later for a petulant tackle on Iniesta. Chile nearly equalized on the break, with Pique ultimately getting back to deflect Beausejour's shot into the side-netting before a fantastic, finally Spanish move involving Torres, Iniesta, and Villa led to the second. Iniesta dispossessed Jara and found Torres, to Iniesta, to Villa, to Iniesta to pass low into the far corner. 2-0, and Spain had barely looked like a coherent side. Sometimes a coherent side isn't necessary when you have individuals like this team does.
To make matters worse for the Chileans, Estrada was sent off for a "foul" on Torres in the build-up when he clipped the striker's heels. Harsh to be sure, and maybe even accidental, but it's hard to feel bad for a player that should have marched 10 minutes earlier. At that point, commentators began to break out "Battle of Santiago" references, and it seemed a matter of time before Chile lost more men.
But credit to Bielsa for changing it up at halftime, replacing the ineffective Gonzalez with Paredes and attacking pivot Valdivia with midfielder Millar, shifting to what seemed a 3-3-3 formation still in line with Chile's usual strategy. In addition, they cut out the stupid, acrimonious fouls after I was taking bets at halftime as to who'd be sent off next. And it paid dividends immediately. Spain, complacent with a two-goal lead and man advantage, gave Millar time and space at the top of box in the 47th, and saw his shot deflect off Pique to wrong-foot Casillas.
Torres, ineffective and limping, was soon replaced by Fabregas as Spain returned to its usual tiki-taka possession and set up a couple opportunities for Villa, only to see the striker twice unable to control in the box around the hour mark. From there, both sides were increasingly content with matters as they were due to news from the other game. There was little chance of Switzerland scoring one, let alone the two they'd need to overtake Chile on goal difference. Alonso finally needing to go off in the 73rd is the only thing worth mentioning, and honestly, they shouldn't have bothered with the final 15 minutes.
Once again, it's a less than fluent Spanish performance, but it's also two wins from two after the embarrassment against Switzerland. Villa's joint-top scorer after the group stage, scoring three of Spain's four goals and assisting on the other. Iniesta looked far fitter, but the midfield was still narrow and disjointed; they looked to have caught the English passing disease in the first half, although a lot of that was down to Chile's pressing. And the defense still has its moments of madness, evidenced by Millar's soft goal.
So now Spain will face Portugal in an all-Iberian match-up, while Chile meets Brazil. Both look infinitely tantalizing: Spain's possession style versus Portugal's defensively solidity; Chile's fluency against Brazil's counter-attacking brilliance. Both know their opposition fairly well. Chile will see both Estrada and Medel miss the next match, but Carmona and Fernandez will return from suspension, while Spain are the first team to finish the group stage without a booking since 1986. Yet while both of today's teams can be fun to watch, they'll both have to improve to progress further in this tournament.