World Cup Semi-Final: Holders Go Out to Spain

A first-half brace from Fernando Llorente helped extend Spain extend their unbeaten run to fifteen matches and gained revenge for their quarter-final exit four years ago to Brazil, as the holders were beaten in St. Petersburg with two defensive mishaps contributing to their downfall.

Brazil restored Dedé back to the starting XI in place of Diego Munhoz in their only change from the 2-0 win over Colombia, while Spain made four changes from their extra-time win over England: César Azpilicueta, Rúben Pardo, Andréas Iniesta and Fernando Llorente came in to replace Victor Ruíz, Cesc Fabregas, Juan Mata, and Rodrigo.

Spain were ahead with just 130 seconds on the clock at the Gazprom Arena, when Azpilicueta launched a long throw in towards Pardo on the edge of the six-yard box. Brazil ‘keeper Rafael didn’t come to claim, and amidst the confusion it was Marcelo who got the fateful final touch and diverted it into his own goal – just the third of the tournament.

It was a lead that didn’t last long, as less than two minutes from the restart, a neat ball from Lucas Leiva was played in towards Leandro Damião who had his back to goal on the edge of the ‘D’. He turned, held off Álvaro Domínguez, and slammed into the top corner from just inside the box for an instant leveller.

Quarter of an hour later, Marcelo once again was involved in Spain taking the lead. He shadowed Jesús Navas down the right before the Spaniard crossed from the goal line. The delivery was cleared but only as far as Iniesta whose shot from 20 yards was parried. Fernando Llorente slotted home the rebound as arms went up in unison towards the assistant referee, but it was Marcelo’s ambling back who played everyone onside.

Things went from bad to worse for Brazil just 90 seconds later. Kicking-off and comfortably passing the ball between them, and starting to push forwards, under no pressure at all Sandro’s ball to Tolói was under-hit and Fernando Llorente stole the ball inside the centre-circle. He had just Dedé to beat for pace before he rounded Rafael and slotted home a third.

With three-quarters of the game still to play, Brazil were done. They briefly rallied in the final 25 minutes but Ramos and Pique were equal to everything thrown at them, and Casillas was largely untroubled.

Spain head to Moscow on Sunday to play the winners between Italy and Argentina. Curiously, Brazil’s first match after the World Cup will be a friendly against Spain in Seville on 15 August.

                  FIFA WORLD CUP: SEMI-FINAL
                        SPAIN 3-1 BRAZIL
                 Marcelo og 3     Damião 5
              Llorente 20, 22

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