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Spain vs. Switzerland: Mighty Spanish fall in World Cup’s first upset

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Roberto Candia/AP

(Read caption) Spain's Pedro Rodriguez jumps past Switzerland's Stephan Lichtsteiner during the World Cup Spain vs. Switzerland soccer match June 16 at the stadium in Durban, South Africa. After the Swiss scored and the Spaniards fought valiantly to equalize, but their barrage on the Swiss goal came to nothing.

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Spain came into this match as co-favorites with Brazil to win the World Cup. They came out with fresh concern about advancing to the second round.

It wasn't supposed to be this way.

Nevermind their history as world-class chokers. This is their Cup to lose.

A third of the world’s top 15 players (at least according to ESPN’s list) are on the Spanish team. They manhandled their opponents in the qualifying matches. They were on a 12-game winning streak.

IN PICTURES: 10 World Cup players to watch

Switzerland? The Swiss skated through the qualifiers thanks to a group that contained Latvia, Israel, Luxembourg, and Moldova. The toughest competition came from Greece, a team that gave one of the poorest performances in this World Cup so far when South Korea spanked them 2-0 on Saturday.

While the Spanish team has been trying to tamp down expectations to relieve some of the pressure, the perennial underperformers seemed eager to start the game by sending a message the same way Germany did in its dismantling of Australia.

The Spanish looked sharp from the start, stringing together crisp passes and attacking the Swiss defense.

They rushed a few poor shots, perhaps overeager to get into the game. But then the attack came fast and furious, forcing the best from Swiss goalkeeper Diego Benaglio.

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The barrage continued into the second half and never let up.

But in the 52nd minute, disaster struck.

Switzerland’s Gelson Fernandes scored the garbage goal to end all garbage goals after a free-for-all that left Spanish defender Gerard Piqué – and perhaps whole nation of Spain – bloodied.

Spain fought valiantly to equalize, with the closest chance coming from Xabi Alonso’s rocket in the 69th minute. But as the crossbar shook from the blast of his shot, so it must have rattled the resolve of the Spaniards.

What did they have to do to get a goal?

They couldn’t find the answer, but they’ll have to figure it out soon if they are to avoid repeating their doomed history.

IN PICTURES: 10 World Cup players to watch

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