“It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it,” Warren Buffet had once said. If you add up all the seconds spent following the foul committed on Chile’s Alexis Sanchez by Spain’s Xabi Alonso late in the first half, right until the point when the resultant free kick ended at the back of Spain’s net for the second time on Wednesday, Buffet’s estimation of five minutes is about right.
For the last six years, La Roja were a generation-defining side; having done what no team had in the history of football by winning two continental majors (Euro ’08 and ’12) on either side of a World Cup triumph. The reigning champions arrived in Brazil as odds-on favourites — in ranking and with the bookmakers, research teams and oracles — to defend their title, with at least 11 squad members who had raised all three trophies. Eighteen had won the last two.
None of them, with their weighty reputations in tow, however, could stop a most tragic occurrence. Spain had become the first team to crash out of the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.
The curse of Maracana
It wasn’t the first tragedy to occur at the Maracanã.
The last time Brazil had hosted a World Cup, Rio de Janeiro’s fabled estadio, the Maracanã, had consumed the hosts with a 2-1 loss to Uruguay in front of 200,000 grieving spectators. It was called the Maracanãzo, or the Maracanã Tragedy.
On Wednesday, as 14th-ranked Chile beat Spain 2-0 in front of a far smaller audience of 60,000 just days after the 2010 runners-up Holland had avenged their final defeat from four years ago with a resounding 5-1 win, the Maracanã burped out Iker Casillas’s men. And their meaty reputations.
“I don’t know how I can go on with my life,” said a Spanish photographer, who did not wish to be named. Based in Dubai since his divorce last year, the photographer claimed that snapping pictures of his beloved national side healed him better than psychiatric therapy. “I put my life’s savings into covering this World Cup. It was my light at the end of the tunnel, a tunnel that saw a bad marriage.” Now the tunnel is dark once more.
“The only saving grace is I didn’t have to watch it live,” he added, just before the Cameroon-Croatia match kicked off in Manaus. “I had made all my bookings for Spain’s knock-out games — Round of 16, quarter-finals, semis, final. But the knock-out happened before the knock-outs. And I’ve got to live with it here in Brazil.”
In the history of the World Cups, Spain aren’t the first defending champions continued…