RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) - The magnitude of Spain’s opening 5-1 loss to Netherlands comes into sharper focus Wednesday when the defending champions must fend off World Cup elimination against Chile, less than a week into the tournament.
Spain and 2010 runner-up Netherlands were expected to advance from Group B, but plenty of pundits - including Brazilian great Pele - tipped Chile as a genuine contender to progress at the expense of one of the European powers.
The Chileans opened with a 3-1 win over Australia, and a second straight victory by the South Americans almost would certainly knock Spain out of the competition.
The Dutch play Australia, the lowest-ranked team in the tournament, in the first of Wednesday’s three matches. That is followed by Spain vs. Chile and the Group A match between Croatia and Cameroon.
Things to watch for Wednesday:
THE CHANGE IN SPAIN: Spain coach Vicente del Bosque stuck with the core group of players who have helped deliver two European championships and a World Cup in a tremendous streak starting in 2008. But after the humiliating loss to the Netherlands, he has forecast changes. Spain needs at least a draw against Chile to remain in contention.
There’s speculation that Cesc Fabregas could replace Diego Costa and Pedro Rodriguez could come in for David Silva. Captain and goalkeeper Iker Casillas’ spot is also under close scrutiny.
“In life, there are solutions for everything,” Del Bosque said. “It’s still in our hands.”
Chile hasn’t beaten Spain in 10 games.
“A draw is not bad, but this group of players does not come with the idea to draw a game,” midfielder Marcelo Diaz said. “We came out with the idea of winning.”
Big games by Arturo Vidal and Barcelona forward Alexis Sanchez are crucial to Chile’s chances. Vidal, the creative midfielder from Juventus, is recovering after knee surgery and played for an hour against Australia.
Venue: Rio de Janeiro. Kickoff: 4 p.m. local time (3 p.m. in New York, 8 p.m. in London, 4 a.m. in Tokyo).
DUTCH TREAT: Even after its stunning win over Spain, Netherlands doesn’t want to leave anything to chance when it comes to qualifying for the next stage. That means Australia could be in serious trouble.