I'll admit it: I kind of love Spain. There was a time—weeks ago!—when they were considered the best team in the world, who had multiple, super long periods where they never lost to anyone for any reason and played a brand of soccer that wasn't just the best but was the culmination of all the best thinking about the game.

But in this tournament, they were exposed, first by the Netherlands, and then Chile. By today's Australia match, they'd already been eliminated from the knockout stages of the World Cup, and had nothing to play for.

Their performance against Australia, however, was a bit of a throwback to a happier time, when they passed around and through lesser teams at will, and in the 36th minute, they broke through with their first of three goals after David Villa backheeled a cross into the goal for the lead. This is when the feels started, when after scoring a meaningless goal against a bad team in a friendly, Villa kissed the Spanish crest on his jersey over and over again, bidding farewell to the country he's represented and done so much for.

In the 55th, he was subbed off. David Villa is a world-beater and a legend, and he's scored more goals than any other Spanish player. There was a brief time when he was the best, most coldly clinical striker in the world, and there was a time, early on in Spain's dominance, before tiki-taka had become fully realized, where it felt and looked like he had the entire squad on his back and was scoring over and over again, match after match, and rewriting the course of the sport himself.

One could argue that if things like "deserved" existed in sports, than David Villa deserved a better sendoff than this. And you could see all these emotions crash down on the striker as he left the pitch in a Spain jersey for the last time, sat down on the bench, and wept.

[ESPN]