Spain set up Portugal clash
Spaniards stroll into knock-out stages as Villa shines
By Elliot Ball. Last Updated: June 25, 2010 10:03pm
Villa: Scored his third of the tournament in spectacular fashion
Spain have set up a mouth-watering clash with Portugal in the last 16 of the World Cup after wrestling top spot from Chile in a fiery contest in Pretoria.
The much-fancied Spaniards ensured they were Group H's top-dogs at the Loftus Versfeld Stadium after securing a 2-1 success and in doing so, avoided fellow tournament favourites Brazil in the next round.
First-half goals from David Villa and Andres Iniesta put Vicente del Bosque's men in control of the contest before Chile saw Marco Estrada dismissed for a second yellow card in the build-up to Spain's second after he clipped Fernando Torres' heels.
Chile came out fighting in the second-half as substitute Rodrigo Millar grabbed a goal back but it was not enough for Marcelo Bielsa's side to snatch back top-spot and they now face South American rivals Brazil at Ellis Park on Monday for a place in the last eight.
Spain, meanwhile, will tackle neighbours Portugal on Tuesday at Cape Town's Green Point Stadium.
Both Spain and Chile fielded attacking sides for their final Group H match, with Iniesta returning to the European champions' line-up for the crucial game at the expense of Jesus Navas.
Mark Gonzalez was given the nod in Chile's attack ahead of Humberto Suazo after his headed winner against Switzerland last time out, while Jorge Valdivia and Estrada filled in for the suspended Matias Fernandez and Carlos Carmona in midfield.
Spain, looking to avoid joining fellow big guns Italy and France in suffering a shock early exit, also started well and Torres had two good chances in the opening five minutes
The Liverpool striker could not make the most of either though, heading the first over the bar and then seeing his second effort deflected for a corner after latching on to a long ball forward from Joan Capdevila.
Chile did not have to wait much longer for their first opening of the match as a well-worked move split open the Spain defence and Jean Beausejour's low cross was just behind the unmarked Gonzalez, who skied his shot well over.
That was almost a great opening for Bielsa's side, and the South Americans were certainly living up to their coach's pre-match assurance they would not go out looking for the draw.
At the midway point of the first-half, Chile lost their discipline as Waldo Ponce saw yellow for a hack on Torres while Estrada was cautioned a minute later for a reckless challenge on Sergi Busquets.
As the Chileans lost their heads, Spain started to dominate possession as they so often do, and their ball retention paid dividends in the 24th minute, albeit thanks to some kamikaze goalkeeping by Claudio Bravo.
Xabi Alonso's clip over the top of the Chile defence looked harmless as Torres chased but Bravo's rash interception allowed Villa an open goal to shoot at.
The Barcelona striker was fully 40 yards from goal and his precise left-foot shot deserves the highest praise, with his 41st international goal also ensuring no other Spaniard had scored more goals in the World Cup finals.
Estrada refused to calm his aggressive nature and he was lucky to avoid a second yellow in the 28th minute for his rash challenge on Iniesta.
Gerard Pique squandered a glorious chance to double Spain's lead in the 35th minute from Xavi's corner and the Barcelona defender was nearly punished for his miss as Beausejour raced clear on a Chile counter-attack but Pique got back to make the vital block.
The game then looked dead and buried in the 37th minute as Iniesta doubled Spain's lead and Chile were reduced to 10 men.
After stealing possession in Chile's half, Iniesta and Torres combined cleverly before the Barcelona midfielder rippled the net with a clinical finish from Villa's centre.
To make matters worse for the South Americans, Mexican referee Marco Rodriguez brandished a second yellow to Estrada, who was adjudged to have clipped Torres' heels in the build-up to the goal.
Ponce, also on a booking, seemed hell-bent on joining Estrada off the field as he flew into a challenge with Alonso in first-half stoppage time but the defender benefited from an unsighted Rodriguez.
Spain could hardly have been in a better position at the interval, but they saw their two-goal advantage halved just two minutes into the second half.
Chile, having made two changes at the break, needed a good start and they got just that when one of the newcomers scored.
Millar found space on the edge of the area and fired in a shot that took a huge deflection off Pique before looping past Casillas and into the net.
That was a huge boost for Chile, but they could make no further inroads and created little to worry Casillas in the remainder of the half.
Del Bosque's Spain also created few goalscoring chances of their own as the second-half petered out.
In fairness, the European champions did not need to break a sweat as they eased to victory and they will now look forward to a tasty clash with their Iberian rivals.