The World Cup takes a while to conclude, but the languid pace can disguise the fact that elimination matches are happening all the time, and as of yesterday, three teams competing for in the tournament were eliminated. Most surprising and most shocking, of course, was Spain. After a 5-1 opening loss to the Netherlands that left most of us asking if what we were seeing was real, La Roja’s second match was against a Chilean team that hadn’t beaten them in over a decade. This was going to be the course correction, the resurrection of Spain’s dominance, and the restitution of the glorious victories of Tiki-taka. Not such luck, unfortunately, as the few shots Spain did manage on Chile were each off in that ‘destined to fail’ way, and the Chilean team played 45 minutes of the most inspired soccer the tournament has seen yet. Goodbye, Spain. Better luck next time.
Australia’s out, which came at the hands of the Netherlands (who have become this year’s dream ruiners, it seems), was considerably more lively and contested. After starting off with a 1-0 goal at the hands of Arjen Robben, a quick response from ‘Straya’s Tim Cahill evened the score at 21 minutes, and after Mile Jedinak’s point put them up 2-1 going into the half, it looked as though the Australians’ season was going to be safe. They didn’t score again, and the Netherlands would win 3-2.
Last but not least, Cameroon fell to Croatia in an 0-4 rout, becoming the first African country to be sent home in a chippy match that featured a particularly memorable red card as Alex Song, who had been increasingly and visibly frustrated the whole match, punched Mario Mandzukic in the back. The Cameroon team would return to the pitch after the half, but they might as well have stayed in the locker room — the effort and the final score wouldn’t have been very different.