Spain lost 5-1 to the Netherlands on Friday in one of the more stunning results in World Cup history.
It’s not only the worst loss ever by a defending champion, it’s a crushing blow to Spain’s chances of sticking around at the 2014 World Cup.
Spain has just a 24.9% chance of getting out of the group after Friday’s results, according to Nate Silver’s SPI index. The Netherlands has a 95.7% chance and Chile has a 77.3% chance.
Spain lost the first game of the 2010 World Cup and recovered to win the entire tournament, but things are different this time around.
Group B — Spain, Netherlands, Chile, Australia — is the Group of Death. Spain, Holland, and Chile are all ranked top-1o in the world according to SPI.
Assuming those three teams all beat Australia — the lowest-ranked team in Brazil — the games they play against each other become incredibly important.
Spain’s 5-1 loss to the Dutch all but guarantees they will be eliminated if Chile beats the Netherlands, even if Spain beats Chile, because of the goal difference tiebreaker.
The hypothetical scenario where Spain wins all its remaining games and still goes home:
- Netherlands results (6 points): Beat Spain, beat Australia, lose to Chile
- Chile results (6 points): Beat Australia, lose to Spain, beat Netherlands
- Spain results (6 points): Lose to Netherlands, beat Chile, beat Australia
- Australia results (0 points): Lose all three games
If all three teams have six points, the two teams with the best overall goal difference will advance. That’s why the 5-1 scoreline matters. Spain’s biggest offence on Friday wasn’t getting beat, it was getting beat by such a huge margin.
They have essentially ruined their goal difference for the entire tournament, and taken their fate out of their own hands.
There’s still a path to the knockout stage for the defending champions. Assuming all three teams beat Australia, Spain will go through if 1) they beat Chile and 2) Netherlands ties/beats Chile. They could also get through if they beat Australia by something like 10-0, but the Socceroos actually looked decent on Friday, so that seems unlikely.
The bottom line: the odds are that Spain is going home, and the magnitude of the blowout against Holland is the reason why.
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