Cup dreams crumble for Casillas
Less than four weeks after it seemed all was well with his world again after lifting a first Champions League crown in 12 seasons with Real Madrid, the sporting roof fell in on Spanish veteran keeper Iker Casillas and his colleagues at the Maracana on Tuesday after a 2-0 loss to Spain dumped the champions out of the World Cup.
The loss left the Spanish as red-faced as their shirts as they suffered an even swifter exit than France suffered in 2002 and Italy in 2010. The loss to goals by Eduardo Vargas after 20 minutes and Charles Aranguiz two minutes before half-time meant Vicente Del Bosque's men saw a six-year winning streak encompassing two European and a first world crown come to an end.
Casillas, who has endured two difficult seasons at the Bernabeu during which he lost his place and saw his national number one status come into question only to come back and help Real conquer Europe for a tenth time, was left to contemplate the end of an unprecedented era of domination of the international scene by one nation.
The 33-year-old is the only player to have racked up 100 internatinal victories and at Euro 2012 he conceded just one goal on the road to glory.
But in Brazil, he has picked the ball out of the net seven times in just two games -- one more goal than La Furia Roja had conceded in their past dozen World Cup outings before coming here.
Casillas was at fault for the second goal -- punching a freekick from Barcelona man Alexis Sanchez out to allow Aranguiz a straightforward chance of sidestepping the veteran shot-stopper and firing past him. The error compounded that of Real teammate Xabi Alonso, who had conceded the set piece.
After a welter of titles with Real - for whom he has made close on 500 league appearances, Casillas was the safe pair of skipper's hands as Spain ended 44 years of under-achievement in winning Euro 2008. He was again a rock as the Spaniards added their first world crown in South Africa four years ago with a string of clean sheets, including in the final against the Dutch who took such spectacular revenge in Salvador last week.
Victory at Euro 2012 ensured Spain became the first team to win three major international titles back to back and they soared through the qualifying, even if question marks began to appear as to whether some of the golden generation, such as he himself after Jose Mourinho first benched him at Real, had not lost their mojo.
Del Bosque stuck by his man -- despite growing noises off that Pepe Reina should be given a chance between the sticks.
Casillas, again wearing the captain's armband in his 156th appearance for Spain, was by no means the only weak link as the Spanish found themselves blown away by Hurricane Holland; nor was he the only player below par as the Iberians flopped once more in the Maracana as an entire team senses the passing of an era.
At the final whistle, the rounded shoulders and slow walk to the halfway line said more than a thousand words as Casillas contemplated the harsh truth
Spain, thumped on his last showing here in the Confederations Cup final 12 months ago, were down and out.
And it was scant consolation for the man from the Madrid suburb of Mostoles that, rather than being dropped, he was at least on deck to go down with an ageing ship which could not cope with the effervescence of either of their opponents.