At first glance, the most Hispanic of all the groups at the 2010 FIFA World Cup™ seemed to present no significant hurdles for favourites Spain. As it transpired, however, the reigning European champions had to work harder than expected to book their passage to the next round. Joining them there was the section's other La Roja, Chile, who took second place ahead of Switzerland and Honduras.
Spain: Hopes for a smooth passage through the group stage were dealt an early blow when Vincente del Bosque’s side suffered an unexpected defeat by Switzerland in their opening game. However, the Spanish rediscovered their rhythm against Honduras, as the goals that proved so elusive in the previous game finally arrived. Ahead of their crunch tie against Chile, some doubts remained about the team's ability to turn possession into goals, but a combination of good fortune and exquisite quality earned Spain top spot as expected.
Chile: It had been 48 years since Chile last won a game at the FIFA World Cup, but they made up for that here by winning their first two. Despite losing to Spain in their final group fixture, their progression to the last 16 proves this is a side with a great future. Considerable credit must go to their coach Marcelo Bielsa, who has created a physically strong, attacking team whose pressure game can stifle opponents. The challenges keep coming for La Roja, however, as next up are Brazil, the very team that eliminated them at their last FIFA World Cup, in 1998.
Switzerland: After their shock opening defeat of Spain, the Nati never quite lived up to this early promise. A solid defence (one goal conceded) provided a foundation for the Swiss to build upon, but apart from scoring on the break against Spain, their inability to convert their chances meant their four points were of no avail.
Honduras: Widely regarded as the section's weak link, the central Americans nonetheless put paid to Switzerland's chances by holding them to a draw in their final game. They also made life difficult for Chile, who only managed to put a single goal past them, and against Spain pitted themselves bravely against La Roja's formidable midfield, even imposing themselves on their opponents at times. Their undoing at this tournament was their inability to score goals – they did not manage a single one – but Los Catrachos can take many positives from the experience.
Moments to savour
Record goalscorer: With three strikes in the group stage, David Villa not only became the joint-leading goalscorer at the South Africa 2010, he also became his country's leading marksman at the FIFA World Cup. Nor is he finished yet, as he closes in on Raul’s all-time Spanish goalscoring record of 44 goals.
Triumphant return: After a 12-year absence from the FIFA World Cup, Chile returned in style, racking up two wins to end 48 years of waiting.
Historic victory: "The victory over Spain will live on in the memory... the whole world has been left with an unforgettable moment." So Swiss coach Ottmar Hitzfeld described the triumph over La Roja - the Nati's first success against Spain in 19 attempts.
Pride intact: Although many had labelled them also-rans, the Hondurans departed their second FIFA World Cup with their heads held high. Never conceding more than two goals in a game, Los Catrachos showed they could mix it with some of the world's best teams, including the European champions and the second-best side in South American qualifying. They also took a point off the Swiss, which could well have been three had they shown more composure in front of goal.
The final word
"Many people are talking about a job well done. But we're not thinking like that. Yes we're happy to be still in the tournament, but we'll do everything possible to go further," Marcelo Bielsa, Chile coach.