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Spain leaves World Cup with win over Australia

David Villa's 59th national team goal
David Villa's 59th national team goal
Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images

Sunday, in Curitiba, Brazil, the former world champion Spanish National Football Team defeated the hapless Australian team by 3-0 with goals from former benchwarmers David Villa, Fernando Torres, and Juan Mata. Spain's starting line-up had seven changes from the team that played the first two games.

The news of this game was not the match, it was the way Spain won that mattered. No, they did not look like the former Euro 2008 and 2012 winners, or the 2010 World Cup winners, but they played together as a team who, as the game unfolded, believed they knew what style and system they played, one they once made a global sensation.

It took them time to find a rhythm as they seemed intent on following an unknown script and then finally decided that, no, this was not the way to play. As they began to pass the ball among themselves they slowly recovered some of the old magic and for brief moments looked like the team they were and could have been one last time.

The three goals came at the 36th, 69th, and 82nd minutes ensuring the team had won soundly but not with an embarrassing score line for the Australians. Other opportunities presented themselves and were not taken, but the regularity of the goals was meaningful.

The play, with few exceptions, was not crisp, the team knew they were probably playing their last game together, but the three scores and in particular the ones by Villa and Torres, might just have reminded Spaniards of what this generation of players are capable of doing when allowed to do so.

As the Netherlands and Chile move on the Spaniards can now go home to their countrymen and try to explain how and why they so thoroughly abandoned their style of play during what should have been the crowning tournament of their collective careers.

The team coach Vicente del Bosque put on the pitch today was not the team he used for the first two games, but it was so much better than most opposition it could have played against, if only he had allowed them to play their style of football.

When the La Liga season begins in August, it will be interesting to see what style of play the newest editions of Real Madrid, Atletico Madrid, Sevilla, Valencia, and Barcelona, adopt. It will also be interesting to see how the likes of Xavi Hernandez, David Villa, Cesc Fabregas, and company, ply their trade at their new clubs. The smart money might be to bet all will play a recognizable style that went missing in Brazil.

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