The Norman Transcript

Sports

June 22, 2014

Spain aims to avoid worst ever title defense

CURITIBA, Brazil — Spain will take on Australia in its final Group B match Monday in the knowledge that defeat will officially make its defense of the World Cup the worst in history.

Following two straight defeats for both teams, neither can qualify for the knockout stages of the World Cup.

But Spain in particular has something to play for, despite having already made history of the wrong kind. It is the first defending champion in modern times to be eliminated after two matches, following a 5-1 drubbing at the hands of the Dutch and a 2-0 loss to Chile. In 1934 Uruguay did not defend its trophy while in 1950 Italy failed to get through a three-team group despite winning a match.

On Monday, Spain will seek to avoid notching another negative milestone.

No defending champion has ever exited a tournament without securing a single point. France came closest in 2002 when it finished last in its group, having only managed to draw one of its games in its goalless campaign in South Korea.

Following a six-year period of domination which has seen it win two straight European Championships as well as the World Cup in South Africa in 2010, Spain’s woes at the World Cup have come as a huge surprise.

Many of the players that took the field in the opening two games are likely to be on the bench at the Arena da Baixada in the southern city of Curitiba.

In the wake of the Dutch thrashing, coach Vicente del Bosque already rang the changes in the second match against Chile when he dropped Xavi Hernandez and Gerard Pique from the start. Koke, for one, is expected to play against Australia, after he replaced Xabi Alonso in the Chile game.

“We’re going to put together the best lineup for that game,” said del Bosque. “All my players are potential starters without a doubt. We’ll try to put together the best team.”

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