James Lawton: Del Bosque has steep climb to scale heights of Latin America

It was time for a European response to the idea that South America are taking hold of this World Cup – and if Spain couldn't make a convincing one, who could?

They did respond with much commitment but the conviction was, to say the least, sporadic.

No doubt their second goal, scored by the returning Andres Iniesta, was guaranteed to strike a chill into any team stepping into the path of the European champions, but it was somewhat isolated in its brilliant penetration. This remained true even when Chile were reduced, for a distinctly dubious reason, to 10 men.

The onset of authority was simply not progressing according to the script.

Spain have been outlining the plot over the last two years but so far the moments of truth have been somewhat clouded. With Iniesta on the field, there is always the possibility of a cobra-like strike and his bite and influence were no doubt the chief source of assurance for the Spanish coach Vicente del Bosque. However, he had no sooner celebrated the goal that seemed to confirm his team's passage to the round of 16 against Portugal when he was beset again by his most gnawing problem.

Fernando Torres was again required to walk off the field dejectedly at a crucial point in his team's less-than-serene passage to the killing phase of the tournament. The striker made some good-hearted runs but his impersonation of the man who cowed so many defenders last season was never more than of marginal menace. With Xabi Alonso also feeling a knock sufficiently to return to the bench, Spain were thus drawn into the trenches by a Chile team who refused to acknowledge either the skills of Spain or the handicap imposed by Mexican referee Marco Rodriguez when he handed a second yellow card to Marco Estrada.

The Chilean was collecting his third card of the tournament, but when Torres fell to the ground he seemed to be the victim of an accidental collision.

Chile, like all their fellow South Americans, have shown impressive competitive instincts and once again they proved that if they tend to be rash in the tackle they have an apparently endless appetite for serious action.

This they achieved despite going down 2-0 moments before Estrada was dismissed, Rodrigo Millar reducing the deficit early in the second half with the help of a massive deflection off Gerard Piqué.

They couldn't take Spain full on, not with their reduced manpower and the threat of some waspish strike from Iniesta again, or maybe David Villa – who had opened the scoring with fine, almost droll skill from 45 yards when Chilean goalkeeper Claudio Bravo made a mad dash from his goal-line and won a challenge with Torres, only to send the ball to the feet of Spain's outstanding predator so far.

But what Chile could do, as they prayed for Switzerland and Honduras to remain deadlocked in the other group game, was fight Spain to a standstill. This they did to the point of a stand-off as Spain played their serial passing game without, apparently, any ambition to strike for a decisive third goal. It would have been the gesture of a team in powerful command of its ambitions, but no such bravado was forthcoming.

Spain, like Brazil earlier in the day, seemed content to guarantee their progress in the most functional way.

For Chile there was the desperate hope that Switzerland did not break down Honduras. Had the Swiss done so it would have been cruel injustice for a team who came into the tournament with the belief that if they failed it would be through no lack of nerve or boldness.

Their achievement would, though, have stood with some honour whatever the outcome of the match beyond their influence.

They had taken on the pride of Europe, and still some people's idea of the favourites, and they hassled and they ran them to a point of serious frustration.

Spain had one priority, of course, and it was achieved. They recovered from the shock of their opening defeat to Switzerland and preserved the possibility that they will some time soon find again their easiest, most daunting touch.

Certainly, it needs to be exerted against the Portugal of Cristiano Ronaldo.

For Chile, their fight to show they can exist with spirit against their betters goes on. Switzerland's failure to save themselves allows Chile to move into the shadow of Brazil. Meanwhile, Spain will be reflecting on how a team from the margins of the South American elite pushed them so hard.

Iniesta, especially, has some quick and influential work to do. He was the sharpest example of Spain when they are at their most creative. He cannot be expected to carry such a load all the way to the mountain top.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
life
Arts and Entertainment
Cold case: Aaron McCusker and Christopher Eccleston in ‘Fortitude’
tvReview: Sky Atlantic's ambitious new series Fortitude has begun with a feature-length special
Voices
Three people wearing masks depicting Ed Miliband, David Cameron and Nick Clegg
voicesPolitics is in the gutter – but there is an alternative, says Nigel Farage
Voices
The veterans Mark Hayward, Hugh Thompson and Sean Staines (back) with Grayson Perry (front left) and Evgeny Lebedev
charity appealMaverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
News
i100
News
people
Sport
Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho
footballThe more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Life and Style
Vote green: Benoit Berenger at The Duke of Cambridge in London's Islington
food + drinkBanishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turn over a new leaf
News
Joel Grey (left) poses next to a poster featuring his character in the film
peopleActor Joel Grey comes out at 82
News
i100
News
business
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee