Spain's cool under fire points way for Europe

Last Updated: Sat, Jun 26, 2010 05:17 hrs

Pretoria: It took cool heads, impeccable technique and a dash of brilliance for Spain to achieve what no one else has done at this World Cup and beat a side from South America.

A 2-1 win over Chile Friday, lit up by two expertly taken goals from David Villa and Andres Iniesta, means Spain will avoid Brazil in the second round but on this evidence they need not fear the five-times World Cup winners.

The European champions finished as Group H winners, with Chile squeezing in behind them, and can now look forward to a second round game against neighbours Portugal with equanimity.

It was a quality that served them perfectly at a raucous Loftus Versfeld, with Spain keeping their heads as all about them players in red were losing theirs.

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Chile's tactic was clear from the start, with Marcelo Bielsa's side picking up three yellow cards, one of which would soon prove costly, with aggressive tackling.

If the idea was to provoke their opponents it failed.

Xavi, Iniesta and the rest of Spain's outrageously talented midfield simply shrugged off the stream of fouls that greeted them in the opening spell and went about their usual business of keeping the ball to themselves.

They also showed, at least in the opening half, the cold-blooded touch in front of goal they had lacked against Switzerland in a 1-0 defeat and again in a 2-0 win over Honduras that should have been much more emphatic.

Villa's perfectly judged finish, a 40-metre waft into an open goal, gave them the first and Iniesta supplied the second as he threaded the ball into the net at the end of a passing move that was simplicity itself.

Victory, helped by a second yellow card for Marco Estrada eight minutes before half-time, was never in doubt, even after substitute Rodrigo Millar pulled one back at the start of the second half with a deflected strike.

If they did not score more goals, that was as much down to the strange nature of the second half, with the action petering out as both sides realised the scoreline suited them fine.

Remarkably, Spain will go into the second round without a single yellow card against them.

That is testament to their ability to keep their frustration at bay, even when things are going against them.

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There is still one obvious area where they can improve. Fernando Torres looked bereft of form, as time and again his first touch let him down in good positions in front of goal.

Yet with Villa on such a spectacular roll, Gerard Pique in inspired form in defence and the midfield running like clockwork, they are assuming the sort of authority that marked their successful run at Euro 2008.

To win the World Cup, they will likely have to beat better South American sides than Chile but at least now they know how it is done -- keep possession, keep cool and keep giving the ball to David Villa.

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