Knee-jerk Reactions: Day Two, Holland 5-1 Spain (Group B, Salvador)
Regicide. In the absence of the late, lamented Paul the Octopus, Spain’s defenestration at the hands of jilted rivals Holland came as a shock. That the World Cup runners-up should beat the world champions was no huge surprise. It was more the manner of the win. There was a frenzy about the Dutch attack, a voracious hunger to not only win but to win joyously and with vindication. For Spain, everything went wrong. David Silva, once again lacking conviction, missed the chance to make it 2-0 and then the roof caved in. In the end, they didn’t just lose – they lost their aura.
Fernando Torres continues to impersonate a man found wandering the streets with no memory of his movements, identity, or reason for being, a footballing amnesiac who can’t quite fathom what he’s doing in a penalty area when he’d just popped out for an Argos catalogue and a nice pair of comfortable slippers.
Iker Casillas, similarly bewildered, has taken to auditioning for a starting spot on a Sunday morning park team. On this evidence, he’d not get the gig.
Better late than never. Robin van Persie has finally turned up for a major tournament. This really is the last chance for van Persie, Arjen Robben, and Wesley Sneijder. Nobody doubts their talent – but there are plenty of reservations about whether they can actually play effectively and harmoniously together. Van Persie has yet to do it on the big stage for his country – his Bambi-on-ice character study at Euro 2012 garnered huge critical acclaim in dramatic circles – but this is a very promising start indeed. Perhaps too promising…
Too much too soon? Holland’s win recalls their glorious first week at Euro 2008 when they demolished Italy 3-0 and France 4-1, cutting a swathe through the competition before crashing out at the first knockout round. World Cups are campaigns – nothing has been won yet. However, they are now favourites to win the group and avoid Brazil in the second round. Spain, if they can survive, would have that privilege. That’s if Chile confirm the pre-tournament suspicions of a minority – including this correspondent – who believe that they’ll flatter to deceive in Brazil. Needing only a draw to, effectively, eliminate the champions, Chile need to wield the dagger in the same manner of the Dutch if Spain aren’t to rise from the dead and complicate things, potentially, for the hosts.