PRETORIA, June 23 – Reigning European champions Spain will need a victory over Chile on Friday to keep a much-fancied World Cup run on course with mighty Brazil or arch-rival Portugal likely waiting if they do advance.The Spaniards must defeat Chile and hope Switzerland, which delivered a 1-0 shocker over Spain in their Group H opener, cannot overcome a Spanish edge in goal difference from their simultaneous match against goal-less Honduras.
"We still need to beat Chile," Spanish star David Villa said. "There’s a long way to go before we can even think about being world champions, both in terms of time and matches."
Argentina coach Diego Maradona summed up the consensus about Spain before the World Cup began, saying, "The way they started off, Spain was coming to pick up the World Cup and we were all playing for second place."
The Swiss loss derailed Spanish supremacy talk and not even a 2-0 victory over Honduras, new Barcelona signing Villa netting two goals, but a loss to Chile at Loftus Versfeld could send Spain home early.
"Now we have to prepare for a big pressure match against Chile," Spain coach Vicente Del Bosque said. "But these players are used to dealing with pressure. For them it’s another match in a very busy season."
"We know Chile are a good side. They are active and quite aggressive, they get to the goal quickly and don’t waste much energy."
Even a victory would not assure finishing atop the group, with the two Group H qualifiers set to face knockout matches against the Group G survivors, Brazil and almost-certain Portugal.
Either figures to be a tough match, with a large Portuguese population in South Africa set to support their favorites and Brazil’s playmakers with Spain as a choice of many to reach the World Cup final.
But Chile coach Marcelo Bielsa is taking nothing for granted despite six points from two matches, the first two Chilean victories at a World Cup since 1962.
"I don’t want to think about what could happen on Friday and what we can achieve against Spain," Bielsa said. "I just hope these six points can act as the basis for our qualification – that’s our immediate objective.
"Football is a game that can produce unexpected results. We have to fight for our place in the last 16 with the same enthusiasm that we’ve shown since arriving in South Africa. We will try to showcase our talents again on Friday."
Del Bosque’s side could have made things a bit easier had they been able to run up the score more on winless Honduras, but they were able only to ensure that a victory over Chile would advance them ahead of the South American team.
"I think we paved the way to play against Chile but it wasn’t a great match," del Bosque said. "We had many opportunities to score and should have won by more, so I am not entirely satisfied.
"We lacked the finishing touch just as we did against the Swiss. This was a more open team and a vulnerable side, we should have done better.
"We will suffer if we continue to play like that."
If they fail to advance, the suffering will last for four long years.
KEY TO MATCH:
Spain’s attack against Chile’s defence
The Spanish need a victory or unlikely help from Honduras to secure a spot in the last 16. Chile can advance atop the group on a draw. That could set up Villa against a Chilean side yet to surrender a goal. The first round might have saved the best for last with this potential sizzler.