Spanish should bow out on a winning note.
After surprisingly bowing out of the tournament after just two matches, even Spain’s players are saying that it’s an end of an era for the national team.
It seemed a bit extreme for King Juan Carlos to abdicate the morning after their defeat by Chile in Rio but coach Vicente del Bosque must surely be contemplating his future after overseeing a disastrous campaign for the reigning world and European champions which has seen them already concede seven goals, managing just one in reply.
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Del Bosque will reflect that he may have asked too much of Diego Costa after injury and should have taken Alvaro Negredo to Brazil as back-up. But too many of Spain’s top players have under-performed. Xabi Alonso, Sergio Busquets and Andres Iniesta have been poor – and Xavi was even dropped for the game against Chile.
Jose Mourinho was roundly criticized when he left Iker Casillas out of the Real Madrid team last year but he’d clearly seen the beginning of the end and the veteran goalkeeper has been an absolute liability in his country’s two games so far and we suspect we may have seen the last of him in a Spanish shirt.
But a ‘dead rubber’ against Australia might be an opportunity to test new blood so expect plenty of changes in Curitiba. Premier League stars David De Gea, Juan Mata and Santi Cazorla should all get some game time and recent Chelsea signing Cesc Fabregas could also start.
The Socceroos are also going home early but, as the lowest-ranked team in the tournament, that was probably expected, unlike Spain’s demise.
They’ve been brave in defeat against Chile and the Netherlands but have obvious shortcomings and one wonders where the goals are going to come from now that Tim Cahill is suspended. The former Everton forward has been their shining light, scoring a fabulous equaliser against the Dutch, and his team-mates could be chasing shadows if Spain do finally turn it on.
Even though there is nothing to play for, there should be plenty of goals in this game as both defences have looked suspect. The Aussies are probably more vulnerable than the Europeans so Spain should end their time in South America with a win (4/9). They are 6/5 to finally keep a clean sheet with Australia sure to miss Cahill’s experience.
The match kicks off at 8pm UK time on Monday June 23rd at the Arena da Baxaida, Curitiba.