So, Game 3 of the World Cup and the first in Group B. This was definitely one of the most anticipated matches of tournaments ever since the draws were out. The finalists of the previous World Cup in an exciting match up. Spain versus Holland. La Furia Roja against the Oranje. Netherlands were the first team to qualify for Brazil notching up an impressive 9 wins and 1 draw in a not so impressive group and they looked an entirely new squad under future Manchester United gaffer Louis Van Gaal, who is known for his attacking outlook. Ever since Johan Cyruff and Co. The Netherlands are known for their attacking style of play but had come under heavy criticism for their negative play in the finals last time. This time out with Rafael Van Der Vaart and Kevin Strootman missing, it was going to be really tough for the Flying Dutchmen. Their opponents? Spain. DOUBLE EURO winners, holders of the World Cup and world number 1, they are known for their tiki-taka game. With a Diego Costa in their frontline, Spain are formidable opponents and favourites to top Group B.
It was a tale of sweet revenge for Holland, something nobody could’ve ever seen coming. It was a five star performance by the Dutch as they went on to win by 5 goals to 1. Honestly, it could’ve been worse.
The Group B match started at a pace where Spain as usual dictated play and controlled the game. However, this young Dutch squad was out to prove a point with the first real chance coming at 8 minutes to Wesley Sneijder whose attempt was saved smartly by Iker Casillas. Then Spain started opening Netherlands up, and with a 3 man defence, Netherlands struggled and finally Spain got their rewards just after half the half had been played. Diego Costa “tripped” by De Vrij and the referee pointed to the spot. It was slightly harsh on the Dutch, but smart play by Costa, who drew the foul. Your authors are conflicted about this as one feels there was enough to be given while one feels it was too soft and should not have been given. Keep in mind, the one who says it wasn’t a penalty is an ardent Holland fan. Xabi Alonso converted and a familiar Spain 1-0 scoreline was seen…
But, the Dutch weren’t giving up so easily. They attacked and attacked and Robben and Daley Blind combined brilliantly on the left flank to worry Chelsea’s Azpilicueta. But Spain still had control and they almost had a second through David Silva, but a strong pair of hands by Jasper Cillissen made sure Silva’s deft chip did not cross the line. It was great keeping by both the goalies throughout the half. Then came the moment of the half; Robin Van Persie stunned the world with a sumptuous and improvised header meeting Daley Blind’s cross with some majesty. The goal was breathtaking and the Dutch celebration showed the emotion of everyone associated with them. At half-time, it was game on.
What happened in the second half was surreal for all football fans (Spain excluded). It was a Dutch master class, masterminded by Louis van Gaal. It was a Robben Van Persie show as Netherlands exuded class in the game and controlled major parts of the game. With just 5 minutes gone, some sublime play by Arjen Robben was enough to beat Iker Casillas and make 2-1 to Netherlands. Robben and Van Persie became the first ever Dutch players to score in 3 World Cup Finals, a great record to have. Then the Dutch party started and the game was getting away from Spain. Xavi, Iniesta and Busquets were nullified by the industrious trio of Jonathan DeGuzman and Nigel De Jong and Darryl Janmaat. Diego Costa looked hapless and was brought off for Fernando Torres (LOL). Stefan De Vrij made amends for his penalty incident and made it 3 and then Robin van Persie dispossessed a certain Spanish keeper and it was becoming a fairytale. Robben further humiliated Casillas and the Spanish center backs and coolly took his second of the night. It was game over by then and it was all about how many more Spain would concede. A special mention to Robin van Persie for his brilliant header and for Daley Blind, who worked tirelessly, provided the super 40 yard ball for that header and was an absolute menace with Robben in the left flank. Spain have already conceded 5 goals this World Cup, 1 more than what they conceded in the entire World Cup of 2010 and Euro 2012 combined. What changed?
Louis Van Gaal has taken his fledglings and stamped his intent in this competition, and we could see the ugly physical display of the first half transform to a free flowing and attacking game that Netherlands are known for. If anything more is to be mentioned apart from the Robben Van Persie show, it would be Torres, a striker who lacks the confidence, a player who could not convert from 2 yards out. If such an underrated Netherlands squad could dismantle the reigning champions so easily, imagine what a Brazil or Argentina could do to them. Netherlands truly put the pain in Spain. It was a fairytale start for the Flying Dutchmen and a finish below 1st in Group B would be shocking, given how they have started. If we had to sum up the game in one line it would be – ‘Spain have been humbled, hammered and humiliated by Holland.’ Take a bow Netherlands, take a hard looks at yourselves Spain.
Our Man Of The Match/FIFA Man Of The Match – Arjen Robben, without a doubt. While many had said that Robben wouldn’t be as influential as he was before due to his age, he proved everyone wrong. We had predicted he would be Netherlands’ Star Performer, and he proved us right and made a mockery of the Spanish defence. A special mention to Robin Van Persie, who was clinical, but Robben was just staggering.
Our Flop of the Game– Iker Casillas. He had an absolute shocker and while he wasn’t helped by his defense, he made some horrendous blunders like gifting the ball to Van Persie and being absolutely whipped by Arjen Robben. However, it would be unfair to only blame him as the defense was miserable. Ramos and Pique, who are some of the most trustworthy defenders, didn’t live up to their usual calibre and were destroyed by the Dutch attack.Don’t be surprised if you see David De Gea or Pepe Reina between the sticks next time out.