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World Cup: Spanish newspapers bemoan humiliating defeat

Spanish newspapers on Saturday bemoaned the "humiliation" and "catastrophe" of world champions Spain's 5-1 battering by the Netherlands in their opening World Cup match in Brazil.

MADRID: Spain mourned the national soccer team's stunning loss to Netherlands in their World Cup opener on Friday with words such as "humiliation" and "nightmare" splashed across the front pages of newspapers on Saturday.

Spain, one of the favourites to win the World Cup and defend their 2010 title, succumbed to a rampant Netherlands team in their heaviest World Cup defeat in over 60 years with a 5-1 demolition.

Most papers splashed on their front pages a photo of Spain's goalkeeper and captain Iker Casillas kneeling with head bowed as Dutch players celebrated after ripping apart the Spanish defence.

"Worse than the worst possible nightmare for a team that had never conceded more than one goal in a European or World championship since 2008," Spain's leading newspaper El Pais said. "A complete cataclysm."

Madrid, which normally greets victories with blasting car horns and singing along the streets, had gone silent.

"Ladies and gentleman, we've lost the magic touch" sports newspaper AS said.

Spain's defeat in Salvador was also only their fourth competitive loss under coach Vicente del Bosque since he took over in 2008 and has triggered speculation of the team's possible premature return to home.

"Spain started the defence of its title without any defence at all and ended up humiliated by Netherlands," sports newspaper Marca said.

With two Euro championships plus the 2010 World Cup title under their belt, expectations for Spain in this competition could not be higher and the response to Friday night's upset was bitter.

"This is not just any old defeat. It is a historic disaster. There is no precedent of this scale in the history of the World Cup," Marca wrote.

"Humiliation", ran the single headline on the front page of general daily El Mundo.

"A ridiculous start," screamed Barcelona-based daily Sport on its front page.

Barcelona general newspaper El Periodico saw the defending world champions, known as La Roja or the Reds, as "Red with shame".

Madrid sports daily AS mourned a "Total breakdown" by Spain in the second half as they gave away a 1-0 lead earned through Xabi Alonso's contentious first-half penalty.

Spanish papers noted bitterly that the scoreline -- two goals each by Arjen Robben and Robin Van Persie and one by Stefan de Vrij -- was sweet revenge for the Dutch for their 1-0 defeat by Spain in the 2010 World Cup final in South Africa.

The Spanish press's only source of consolation was pointing out that Spain lost its first game in that World Cup, to Switzerland.

Many commentators mourned the ineffective performances of past heroes of the Spain squad, such as Casillas, defenders Sergio Ramos and Gerard Pique and midfielders Andres Iniesta and Xavi Hernandez.

Some thought the defeat marked the end of an era for the world and European champions.

"Spain is like the remains of an empire that knows it is near its end," wrote noted commentator Joan Maria Battle in Sport.

"Casillas was unrecognisable. Pique and Sergio Ramos were uncoordinated, as if they had never played together," while Iniesta and Xavi dropped out of sight in the second half, Batlle wrote.

If Spain wants to extend its winning streak after the 2010 World Cup crown and the past two Euro championships, coach Vicente del Bosque "will have to seek urgent solutions", Marca warned.

"The hardest job will be in maintaining team spirit."

Some newspapers took consolation from the fact that Spain also lost their opening game at the 2010 World Cup to Switzerland but eventually went through as group winners.

Changes to the team were demanded for the next game against Chile, who opened with a 3-1 win over Australia, on June 18.

"It is time to think quickly, draw firm conclusions and make logical changes in the next starting line-up to get back into this World Cup," wrote Lobo Carrasco in Barcelona sports paper Mundo Deportivo.

"Winning it seems is almost impossible, but it all depends on beating Chile."

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