The dynasty label, overused in sports, might have understated Spain's recent status in international soccer. The Spanish had swept the globe's last three preeminent competitions — the 2010 World Cup and the European Cups in '08 and '12.
While all good things end, the suddenness of Spain's crash and burn at this World Cup was stunning. Looking as sloppy at times as an adult-league team at the local park, the champs were drummed out of contention by Chile, 2-0, barely after they had piled up the first load of laundry in Brazil.
Spain's record (0-2) hardly captures the steepness of the fall. The defending titlists have been outscored 7-1, and a concluding match with Australia, also winless, is an ultimate test of pride.
Chile, which moves on with the Netherlands out of Group B after they go head-to-head for the top seed, went ahead in the 19th minute on a deft string of passes that set up a tap-in by Eduardo Vargas. A Spanish turnover, one among a raft of giveaways, began the sequence.
With just over 42 minutes elapsed, Charles Aranguiz, who assisted on the initial goal, finished this time, popping in a follow-up to a free kick. Goalkeeper Iker Casillas, who avoided demotion after yielding five goals to the Netherlands, punched the original attempt directly to Aranguiz at the doorstep of the net rather than to a safer area on either side.
Because of the goal differential factor that breaks ties in group standings, a draw likely would have been insufficient for Spain. Desperate, they pressed forward in the second half, but their flame essentially was extinguished in the 53rd minute when Sergio Busquets muffed a gimme from close in with the Chilean goalkeeper out of position.
Had Busquets scored, the assist of the tournament would have belonged to Diego Costa, who delivered an uncanny bicycle kick. The miss and the subsequent defeat must have left Costa wondering about his choice of teams for the Cup. Born in Brazil, he could have opted for the host country, which is very much alive.
Opting for experience, Spain, the eighth oldest among 32 teams, brought back two-thirds of the 2010 roster. At the inquest, the presumed cause of demise inevitably will be a shortage of hungry young players.