What a blessing that the Spanish comfort food paella is commonly served on extra-large platters. Spain’s haughty soccer interests might feel an urge to pig out in search of comfort after watching the harshest defeat ever for a World Cup defending champion.
Netherlands, 5-1. One more goal, which the Dutch nearly mastered in the closing minutes, and the score would have seemed taken from a tennis match after the opening set.
Somewhere in Brazil, a witch doctor is taking credit for a curse placed on Spain. Fans in Ola Bola Stadium unconnected to either team rained boos on striker Diego Costa, a Brazil native who accepted Spanish citizenship while playing professionally in Europe, then a role on the national squad.
Let’s play a word-association game with Brazilians.
Their ire was raised when Costa became a central figure in Spain’s lone goal. During a foul-laden opening half in which the Netherlands, carrying over their nastiness from the 2010 Cup finale, were whistled 11 times. One of the milder no-no’s was a leg-on-leg take-down by Stefan de Vrij of Costa. The striker might have been slipping before the mishap, but because it transpired in the box, a penalty was assessed. Xabi Alonso made it count.
The jeers increased in intensity when Costa went unpunished for a head-butt that was undetected by the referee.
By then, the Dutch had surged ahead 2-1 on a sublime long-distance header by Robin van Persie and some serious contortionism by Arjen Robben for a score.
The goals, they kept on coming, one more apiece by Van Persie and Robben, along with a gimme header by De Vrij.
By that time, paella surely was heating up in kitchens all over Spain.
To be followed by this fitting dessert: a slice of humble pie.