By AVI CREDITOR
After an eye-opening loss to Switzerland in the first match of its World Cup run, Spain is right where most thought it would be.
David Villa and Andres Iniesta scored in a victory over 10-man Chile, and La Furia Roja claimed the top spot in Group H and a date against neighboring country Portugal in the Round of 16. Chile, whose loss ended CONMEBOL's unbeaten streak, also qualified for the next stage, finishing two points clear of Switzerland. La Roja's prize? A date with Brazil.
Switzerland had a chance to make things interesting but couldn't break Honduras' defense in a scoreless draw. The CONCACAF side earned its first point of the World Cup and exited the tournament with somewhat of a moral victory.
Here's a brief recap of the final group-stage games, along with Group H's Best XI:
SPAIN 2, CHILE 1
Villa scored probably the weirdest goal of the World Cup to date, Iniesta added another before halftime and Spain jumped all over Chile early to claim Group H's top spot.
Spain opened the scoring in the 24th minute when Xabi Alonso played a long ball down the left for Fernando Torres. Chile goalkeeper Claudio Bravo came off his line and out of the box to slidetackle the ball away only to kick it right to Villa. The Barcelona striker ran onto the ball in stride and calmly curled a 45-yard shot from the sideline into the empty net to calm Spain, which got off to a nervy start.
Iniesta, making his return to the lineup, took a pass from Villa and slid home a shot from the top of the penalty area 13 minutes later to double the lead. Making matters worse for Chile, Marco Estrada picked up his second yellow card on the build-up to the goal, leaving La Roja shorthanded the rest of the way.
Halftime substitute Rodrigo Millar got a goal back for the Chileans, striking an 18-yard shot that deflected off of Gerard Pique and leaving a flat-footed Iker Casillas hopeless in goal. The goal eased the pressure on Chile, as it forced Switzerland to win by a two-goal margin if it were going to steal the knockout-stage spot.
Here's the highlight of Villa's absurd goal:
HONDURAS 0, SWITZERLAND 0
Needing a win to have any hope of advancing, the Swiss couldn't break though on Los Catrachos and settled for a disappointing, scoreless draw.
The Swiss' chances of reaching the knockout stage seemed great when Spain jumped out to its 2-0 lead on Chile. At that point, they needed just a 1-0 victory to join Spain in the knockout stage.
Nobody wearing red could sneak one past Honduras keeper Noel Valladares, though, as the Swiss bowed out.
Eren Derdiyok's wayward header in the 14th minute and Blaise N'Kufo's chances in the 42nd and 43rd minutes were Switzerland's best hopes to get on the board.
Switzerland keeper Diego Benaglio, who was brilliant throughout the group stage, came up with the save of the match when he denied Edgar Alvarez in the 71st minute, which at the time kept Ottmar Hitzfeld's side alive.
GROUP H FINAL TABLE
1. Spain……………6 points, +2 Goal Differential
2. Chile…………….6 points, +1 GD
3. Switzerland…..4 points, 0 GD
4. Honduras…….1 point, -3 GD
SBI'S GROUP H BEST XI
What do you think about the Group G/Group H matchups? Do you think Spain will beat Portugal? Do you think Chile can give Brazil a hard time? How do you assess Honduras' World Cup run?
Share your thoughts below.