FIFA World Cup: Spain battling for survival tonight against Chile
After their 5-1 annihilation by Holland, the spectre of a humiliating World Cup group-stage exit hangs over champions Spain ahead of today's game with Chile in Rio de Janeiro
Rio de Janeiro: After their 5-1 annihilation by Holland, the spectre of a humiliating World Cup group-stage exit hangs over champions Spain ahead of today's game with Chile in Rio de Janeiro.
Vicente del Bosque
While the nation is still reeling from Spain's heaviest defeat in 51 years — a result branded "a catastrophe" by the Spanish media — there could be worse to follow at the iconic Maracana.
If Spain lose again and Holland avoid defeat against Australia in today's other Group B game, Vicente del Bosque's side will join Brazil (1966), France (2002) and Italy (2010) in the list of defending champions to have fallen at the first hurdle.
The same set of results would take Chile through, and Jorge Sampaoli's aggressive, hard-working team, who go into the game on the back of a 3-1 win over Australia, have lost only twice in their last 16 outings.
Spain's midfielder David Silva (left), defender Raul Albiol and Gerard Pique during a training session on Monday. Pic/AFP
Spain midfielder Cesc Fabregas has described the fixture as "life or death", but Del Bosque — architect of the triumphs at the 2010 World Cup and Euro 2012 — says there is no need to panic.
"The hours go by and the mood gets better," the Spain coach told Spanish television channel Cuatro.
"We have the challenge of winning our next two matches. It won't be easy, but it is possible. We are trying to prepare as well as possible and not be too sad.
"The first half against Holland was good. The problem was the second half. Now people are more optimistic. We need to remember that it is a game and we need to enjoy ourselves."
Del Bosque has suggested that he will make "two or three changes", with goalkeeper Iker Casillas' position under particular scrutiny after an error-strewn display in the capitulation to the Dutch.
Pepe Reina, the Liverpool goalkeeper who spent last season on loan at Napoli, is in line to step in, but third-choice goalkeeper David de Gea is struggling with a muscle problem.
Pedro Rodriguez and Juan Mata could also come into the starting XI and the Barcelona forward is eager to erase the memory of Spain's last trip to the Maracana, when they crashed 3-0 to Brazil in last year's Confederations Cup final.
"It is a mythical ground," said Pedro. "Every player would love to play there because of its history. It is a big pitch and that could help us with our style of play.