SALVADOR, Brazil — Spain goalkeeper Iker Casillas crawled and scrambled in vain, Gerard Pique was beaten for pace and Sergio Ramos made a series of blunders.
Whatever happened to Spain’s usually rock-solid defense?
A backline that helped Spain win its last three major tournaments was totally ripped to shreds in a 5-1 defeat by the Netherlands at the World Cup Friday, as the defending champions tumbled to their heaviest competitive defeat since 1950.
“I can’t find the words” to explain it, coach Vicente del Bosque said. “I don’t want to point fingers at anybody. A team’s defeat doesn’t come down to just one player. I don’t want to point fingers at (Casillas) or anyone.”
Casillas gifted Robin van Persie his second goal and the Real Madrid keeper was down and beaten as Arjen Robben waltzed through the area to score his second of the night.
“I didn’t do things like I should have, especially to start a World Cup,” Casillas said. “It wasn’t one of my best games, I wasn’t at the level I needed to be. I have to accept all criticism.”
Pique was easily rounded by Robben for his first goal and then outsprinted by the Dutchman for his second, despite having a clear head start on the 30-year-old midfielder.
“The second half was terrible,” Pique said, “we were just awful.”
Ramos, normally the beating heart of Spain’s backline, could do nothing as his defense collapsed around him.
Spain’s players left the Arena Fonte Nova pitch in disbelief, with Del Bosque trying to maintain morale by encouraging his players at the final whistle.
“We found space in the first half, but everything started crumbling in the second,” Del Bosque said. “We’re a team of professionals and we have to understand that while this defeat hurts, no one should be reproached.”
In one game, Spain conceded more goals than it did in its last two major tournaments combined.
Spain only conceded one goal as it retained its European championship title in 2012 and just two as it lifted the World Cup for the first time in 2010.
The European champion, which hadn’t been beaten so humiliatingly since losing 6-1 to Brazil the last time the World Cup was played in this South American country, has little time to regroup in a tough Group B.
With Chile next Wednesday, Del Bosque needs his team to rediscover its former defensive strengths.
“We have to move forward, keep quiet, work hard and look at the next match as the most important final of the tournament,” said Casillas after earning his 155th – and most humbling – cap.
Mexico 1, Cameroon 0: With torrential rain pouring down and two goals already contentiously disallowed, tens of thousands of soggy but boisterous Mexico fans were getting nervous.
They already started chanting for Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez, the striker benched in favor of Oribe Peralta, to come on and deliver a game winner.
Seconds after the chant began, Peralta scored in the 61st minute to help Mexico to a 1-0 victory Friday and the three points it needed to have any chance of advancing from a tough Group A at the World Cup.
Peralta’s goal gave Mexico its first win over an African team at the World Cup and justified coach Miguel Herrera’s faith that he could deliver on the biggest stage in the world.
A nonfactor most of the first half, Peralta broke the deadlock with his left foot after Cameroon goalkeeper Charles Itandje parried Giovanni Dos Santos’ attempt from the edge of the area.
The goal relieved the pressure that was building steadily after Dos Santos had two goals disallowed in the first half, frustrating the Mexican team that was controlling the game with its speed and ball possession.