Struggling Spain ripe for taking by Chile

Spain's coach Vicente Del Bosque speaks with his goalkeeper Iker Casillas before a training session...

Spain's coach Vicente Del Bosque speaks with his goalkeeper Iker Casillas before a training session in Curitiba on June 14, 2014. (REUTERS/Henry Romero)

MORRIS DALLA COSTA, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:22 PM ET

RIO DE JANEIRO -- By 6 p.m. local time Wednesday, the tiki-taka may be dead.

Tiki-taka isn’t a breath mint. It’s a style of play in soccer that puts the emphasis on short passes, movement and maintaining possession.

World Cup champion Spain is the best known proponent of this style of play and until Friday’s tournament opener against the Netherlands they had been virtually unstoppable.

Spain only got as far as the tiki but never the taka before the Dutch inserted a boot where the hyphen should have been. The 5-1 victory by the Netherlands was as thorough a dismantling of a world soccer power as has been seen in years.

Did the Dutch provide a template to the rest of the world on how to stop Spain? Have Spain finally come off the boil after spending so long bubbling along as the best team on the planet? Have age and a heavy playing schedule for those who all play long seasons with their clubs caught up to La Furia Roja? Is Chile good enough to put one more nail in the Spanish coffin?

It can’t be a happy thought for Spanish coach Vincente del Bosque to know he must beat Chile on Wednesday.

Not every team is the Netherlands. The Dutch have physically imposing players who will stick you repeatedly with a boot, shoulder or elbow.

Chile may not be as physical but they love to pressure their opponents. They strike quickly and they without doubt will be better than they were in their 3-1 win over Australia during which they scored twice early and then coasted.

The combination of pressure Spain faces is like none they have ever before. They must win against a quality opponent with a lineup that is unsettled. A rarity for them.

“If we don't win we go home, and the consequences will be brutal,” said veteran midfielder Cesc Fabregas.

Del Bosque is loyal to the players who have rewarded him in the past, but some of them are on the downside of wonderful careers.

The decisions he must make have gotten much more difficult.

Reports say Xavi, Gerard Pique, David Silva and Diego Costa are out, and will be replaced by Koke, Javi Martinez, Pedro and Fabregas,

But who does he play in net?

After the Iker Casillas debacle it was a virtual certainly that Manchester United’s David de Gea would start. De Gea, however, strained a leg muscle during training and is expected to miss 10 days if not more.

Pepe Reina of Liverpool is the No. 3 goalie, but like Casillas he doesn’t even start for his club.

Del Bosque is between a rock and a hard place but he’ll likely stick with Casillas.

Goalkeeping isn’t the team’s only big problem. Del Bosque watched as the vaunted Spanish scoring machine generated very few opportunities. Their movement with and without the ball didn’t have the sharpness it usually has and that, too, raised questions about del Bosque sticking with the same players.

All the discussion about Spain needing to get better totally ignores the Chileans.

If Chile plays up to its potential it might not matter how much Brazil improves. Chile is a strong team in its own right. With Spain’s defeat to the Netherlands, Chile recognizes they are but one win away from a berth in the next round. Don’t discount the pride that comes with playing the World Cup in South America.

While Spain is struggling to find a solution, Chile knows that one of their top players, Arturo Vidal, will only get better after playing through injury in the first game.

Holland showed Chile the way to beat Spain is to be aggressive and straightforward.

Chile must pressure Spain because right now the world champions are ripe for the taking.


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