• Text size      
  • Send this article to a friend
  • Print this article

A red rag to the Spanish bull?

MUCH was made of the potential frailties in Spain's make-up during the build-up to these World Cup finals, and their brutal exposure by Holland at the Arena Fonte on Friday night has given the critics every opportunity to feel satisfied with their predictions.

Yet, only a fool would write off the defending champions, who lost their opening match to Switzerland four years ago in similarly shocking circumstances. Back then it was the identity of the team that handed out the defeat that stunned the global audience; this time it was the margin of loss for a team that so rarely concedes. Will it serve as a red rag to the Spanish bull?

Certainly Sergio Ramos, more culpable than most in the 5-1 humiliation by the Dutch in Salvador, believes the result was a blip rather than evidence of any wider malaise and he has implored his team-mates to show all their champion qualities as they seek to salvage something from the wreckage of their start in Group B.

The 28-year-old Real Madrid centre-back said: "This team has experience and has been through some bad times. It's been able to come back from setbacks like this and that's what makes it great. We can't sit around feeling sorry for ourselves. We need to start thinking right now about beating Chile."

Jose Pekerman's fancied side, who face Spain on Wednesday, impressed intermittently in beating Australia 3-1 in their first game, but they, too, almost succumbed to an unlikely draw against the lowest-ranked nation in the tournament. Still, all the pressure is on Spain and Fernando Torres accepts there is little room for error.

The Chelsea striker said: "It's pretty clear the situation is a whole lot trickier after this defeat. You have to win and your opponents know you have to win. You can't even afford to draw and they'll try to make the most of any anxiety we might be feeling."

Spain capitulated alarmingly as they conceded four goals in the second half. It seemed business as usual as Xabi Alonso put them in front with a 27th-minute penalty, but Robin van Persie levelled with a sublime header before the interval.

The Dutch then found another gear as the exhilarating Arjen Robben put them ahead after 53 minutes and Stefan de Vrij forced in a third. Van Persie robbed Iker Casillas to claim the fourth and Robben wrapped up the scoring with a superb solo effort.

The performances of Casillas and forward Diego Costa will have given cause for concern for manager Vicente del Bosque. Casillas looked rusty after a season of limited action at Real Madrid while Atletico Madrid's Costa, injured prior to last month's Champions League final, cut a frustrated figure.

He did win the penalty for Spain's goal, but replays suggested he may have initiated the contact. The Brazilian-born forward was booed throughout by home supporters who still have not forgiven him for his decision to turn his back on his country. He also escaped punishment for what appeared an attempted headbutt on Bruno Martins Indi.

Ramos conceded that he and his team-mates were not focused properly on the task at hand following the shock of conceding the second goal. He said: "Our mindset was negative from the moment we fell behind. You start thinking things you shouldn't and that was reflected in the final scoreline.

"For better or worse you cannot stand still in football, you have to look forward. It's not normal that we concede so many goals. We have to improve in the next few days and only a win against Chile will be enough for us."

Holland earned some measure of revenge for their loss to Spain in the final in Johannesburg four years ago, but Robben refused to get carried away by the result even if it put the Oranje in control of the group.

"You can't compare this game with four years ago," he said. "Back then it was a final and this was a group match. But we played against the toughest opponents and, in pure footballing terms, the best team in the world. We matched them well and took our chances. We need to stay focused and just keep doing what we have been doing."

Contextual targeting label: 
Football

Commenting & Moderation

We moderate all comments on HeraldScotland on either a pre-moderated or post-moderated basis.
If you're a relatively new user then your comments will be reviewed before publication and if we know you well and trust you then your comments will be subject to moderation only if other users or the moderators believe you've broken the rules

Moderation is undertaken full-time 9am-6pm on weekdays, and on a part-time basis outwith those hours. Please be patient if your posts are not approved instantly.

240455