Vicente del Bosque rang the changes for this dead rubber against Australia, also eliminated after two games. Seven alterations from the defeat to Chile saw David Villa handed a start his final international outing alongside Fernando Torres and Santi Cazorla in attack, with Koke in midfield after an impressive cameo in the defeat to Chile. The Socceroos brought Oliver Bozanic and Adam Taggart into their XI at the expense of Mark Bresciano and suspended Tim Cahill.
This 'meaningless' contest began at a decent pace with both sides keen to end their campaigns on a winning note. Australia were looking to do damage on the flanks, predominantly through Jason Davidson and Matt McKay down the left, while Villa was patrolling the left side for Spain and looking to cut inside.
McKay was the best passer of the game after 16 minutes as he tried to make inroads out wide.
But as the half-hour mark approached Spain's passing game was starting to influence proceedings. Jordi Alba worked Matt Ryan with a fierce drive in the best opening of the afternoon so far.
And it was no surprise to see Villa help make the breakthrough. The Atletico Madrid forward had been heavily involved down the left, but the goal came from the opposite flank; Juanfran driving forward and crossing for Villa to convert with a classy flick.
By half-time the Spanish were on top, responding to the Socceroos' 1 early shot with 5 of their own.
Without the banned Cahill, Australia were struggling to make their crosses count. In the group opener against Chile, the Aussies connected with 8/19 centres into the box, but in the first half here just the 1 found its target. Spain, meanwhile, weren't finding anyone with their crosses, with Diego Costa left on the bench.
The influence of Xabi Alonso, potentially making his final international outing, and Alba grew as the first period progressed. At the interval, the duo were the leading two players on the pitch for passes, ball recoveries and interceptions.
Coach Ange Postecoglou made a change ahead of the restart, replacing ineffective frontman Taggart with Brisbane Roar's right-sided attacker Ben Halloran. Mat Leckie moved into a more central attacking role as a result. And only 10 minutes of the second half had elapsed when the curtain came down on Villa's international career; Spain's all-time scorer (59 goals in 97 appearances) leaving the pitch in tears as Juan Mata took his place.
Neither side were having much success going forward in the opening 15 minutes of the second half.
But one defence-splitting pass from Andres Iniesta (comfortably the game's best passer after 68 minutes) was all that was needed to put the game beyond Australia's reach; Fernando Torres staying onside and coolly slotting the ball home.
The stuffing well and truly knocked out of them, Australia looked a tired side for the final 20 minutes. Del Bosque brought on Mata, Cesc Fabregas and David Silva during the second half and two of them combined to add a third goal late on; Cesc's chipped pass allowing Mata to nutmeg the goalkeeper.
The Aussies were no match for Spain after half-time, as La Roja's passing machine moved through the gears, completing twice as many attacking passes than the Socceroos in the second period.
All 3 of Australia's second-half attempts were from long range and of no concern to goalkeeper Pepe Reina. In fact, they failed to register a shot on target in a World Cup match for only the second time in their history; the other time in 1974 against East Germany
Spain were busy in the tackle and successful, winning 75% of the 36 they attempted in Curitiba, while the Socceroos won just 10 out of 20.
Alba was a standout performer down the left flank. The Barcelona full-back was second in the passing chart behind Iniesta, but made more ball recoveries (14), won more tackles (5/5) and completed more interceptions (6) than anyone else on the pitch.
Facts and figures
- Australia have only 1 one of their 8 World Cup games against European opposition (2-1 vs Serbia in 2010), losing 6 (D1).
- Spain scored 3 goals from just 4 shots on target against Australia.
- David Villa is Spain’s top scorer at the World Cup with 9 goals in 12 games, 4 more than any other Spanish player. Indeed, Villa has scored in each of the last 3 World Cup finals.
- Australia have failed to keep a clean sheet in any of their last 10 World Cup matches.
- No player has provided more assists for Spain at the World Cup (since 1966) than Cesc Fabregas (3).
- Australia’s Matthew Spiranovic completed all 38 of his passes against Spain.
- Australia have conceded 2 or more goals in 6 of their 8 World Cup matches against European opposition.
- Fernando Torres scored with his first shot on target of the World Cup; having played 123 minutes.
- It’s the first time in 12 World Cup matches that Spain have scored 3 goals in a game.