A dress rehearsal for the more bitter dead rubber involving England tomorrow, this is the only match of this year’s World Cup that will mean absolutely nothing at all.
Spain are making their final bow at this year’s tournament. The holders were the first team to be mathematically eliminated from the World Cup after being smashed by Netherlands and outflanked by Chile. Manager Vicente del Bosque has already said he will step aside if asked: all he can do now is test which of his squad players have the potential to fill future Spanish first teams.
Midfielder Koke will start ahead of Xabi Alonso. The 22-year-old is 10 years younger than his teammate, who is rumoured to be considering international retirement.
Veteran goalkeeper Iker Casillas is also expected to be rested for the final game after a poor tournament, leaving the door open for Liverpool’s Pepe Reina. Much will be made of whether striker Diego Costa maintains his starting place or not: the Atletico forward has not hit a single shot on target in 126 minutes of World Cup action.
Australia already have a better goal difference than their Spanish opponents, an unthinkable situation at the start of the World Cup. To win tonight would be a huge step forward for the Socceroos, even if it means nothing in terms of group qualification.
Suspended striker Tim Cahill underlined his side’s motivation when he said, “If we beat Spain that will be one of the biggest moments in Australian history.” Miserable Spain will need to beware that kind of incentive.
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