Byline: MICHAEL WALKER reports from Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria
FRIDAY night, an atmospheric fog drifting across Pretoria, an actionpacked corker and a declaration of intent from Spain: South Africa's winter World Cup continues to blossom.
With Andres Iniesta flowing gracefully around the Loftus Versfeld pitch and with David Villa scoring again -- with a beauty from 40 yards out -- Spain defeated an impressive Chile team reduced to 10 men in the 37th minute just as Spain went 2-0 up.
Marco Estrada was the Chilean sent off, and the only downside of Spain's victory was Fernando Torres's role in Estrada's dismissal. Torres lay on the ground as if he was badly wounded as Iniesta drilled in Spain's second. The damage to Torres's reputation will be greater than any hurt here, though he might say that Estrada was the Spanish striker's revenge for an earlier off-theball kick by Waldo Ponce.
Chile, who face Brazil in the last 16, never gave up, and substitute Rodrigo Millar scored in the 47th minute to leave the result in doubt until the scored in the 47th minute to leave the result in doubt until the last minute.
But Spain sealed the three points they needed to win the group. That means they avoid Brazil on Monday -- and get an extra day's rest -- but Portugal are the opposition in Cape Town on Tuesday.
Spain-Portugal is a derby to savour, and not one to be taken for granted by the European champions.
But, having stuttered against Switzerland in the first group game, Spain are now in a groove. That Barcelonainspired pass and go -- tikitaka as it's known in Spain -- is back with smooth force.
But it had to be. Chile finished second to Brazil in South American qualification and they were willing partners in a game that was fast and furious from kick-off. Both sides were in a hurry, it seemed, though Chile's principal rush was into the notebook of Vincent Pricelookalike referee Marco Rodriguez.
In the first 20 minutes, the Mexican official booked Gary Medel, Ponce and Estrada, meaning Medel and Ponce will miss Chile's next match. As for Estrada, it was soon to get much worse.
Yet, to portray Chile as merely tough-tackling would be to ignore the speed and menace of their attacking play. In Jean Beausejour and Alexis Sanchez, Chile have thrilling forwards and might have taken the lead in the 10th minute when a superb dummy and cross from Beausejour found Mark Gonzalez arriving at pace at the far post. But Gonzalez was unable to keep his shot down and the chance was gone.
Later in the first half Spain goalkeeper Iker Casillas was angry with his defence when former Manchester United striker Gerard Pique staged a last-ditch tackle to frustrate the galloping Beausejour.
But those moments aside, Spain gave more than they got. Torres missed a great headed chance as early as the fourth minute and, 60 seconds later, the Liverpool striker raced on to a 70-yard pass from Joan Capdevila. …