As the first two teams eliminated from the World Cup, the only thing at stake between Spain and Australia is pride.
Monday’s final Group B game at Arena Da Baixada in Curitiba, Brazil presents Spain the opportunity of salvaging their last day as defending World Cup champions, and Australia can build off some of their more surprising performances with a victory against a squad still sporting some of the best players in the world.
Vicente del Bosque’s side couldn’t recover after the 5-1 beating the Netherlands handed down in the Cup opener, and Spain’s poor all-around play carried over into its 2-0 loss to Chile that ended any chance of consecutive world titles.
Strangely, the Spanish dominated possession and forced more corner kicks than opponents in their first two matches, but they’ve failed to parlay that success into real chances. It’s the first group stage exit for Spain since 1998, and second in the last 36 years, and Xabi Alonso’s singular goal against Holland is Spain’s lowest scoring effort in all 14 tournament appearances.
This could very well be the last hurrah for Spain after a torrid and unprecedented run around the globe with three consecutive major tournament victories. Forwards David Villa, 32, Fernando Torres, 30, along with midfielders Alonso, 32, and Xavi, 34, could be making their last Cup appearances. That core has netted 124 goals over the years, and they’ll look to wipe away the embarrassment handed down by Holland.
Australia bounced back from its 3-1 opening loss to Chile with an excellent display against the Netherlands, and maintained a lead against the group favorites, however brief those four minutes were.
The Socceroos will also say goodbye to their two most decorated players.
Forward Tim Cahill’s stunning volley in the 21st minute evened the score against Holland, but his yellow card 22 minutes later assured the Australian star of a suspension against Spain. After 71 appearances and a team record 34 goals, Cahill, 34, has likely made his last Cup start.
That leaves midfielder Mark Bresciano, also 34, to carry Australia’s attack. Bresciano’s totaled 76 caps and 13 goals over the last 13 years, and he could leave the international stage with a flurry against Spain’s leaky back line.
A start for forward Adam Taggert might be in the works from Australia manager Ange Postecoglu as a replacement for Cahill, and assuming the game isn’t close down the stretch midfielder Oliver Bozniac could again come on for Bresciano.
Start Time: Monday, 12 p.m.
TV Channel: ESPN2
Live Online Stream: A live online stream is available at Watch ESPN here
Betting Odds: (bovada.lv)
Over/Under: 2.5 goals
Prediction: Spain 4-1 Australia