The second round of matches were underway in Group B and we had the Netherlands, who had successfully dismantled Spain, versus Australia, who’s World Cup survival was on the brink. If Netherlands would win, they had more or less qualified, and Australia winning, seemed unlikely although they had never lost to the Netherlands with a record of 1 win and 2 draws.
The score was Australia 2 – 3 Netherlands at Porto Alegre, and Australia became the first nation to be knocked out of the World Cup Finals. If you were just seeing the scoreline, you would think, “Hmm, routine victory for Netherlands, but how did they concede 2 goals?” The answer is, it could’ve been worse than 2 goals and Australia seemed the superior side. It was a hard fought victory, with Netherlands’ experience and depth in squad being the key factors.
The game was controlled by the Aussies for the good part of the first 20 minutes, with not many chances to them. They had started to worry a very fragile looking Dutch back 3 and the pace of Cahill and Leckie was getting too hot to handle. But at 20 minutes, the game changed dramatically. Australia’s Wilkinson was caught in possession on the halfway line by Robben and he started to gallop and Robin van Persie an option on the right. But Robben did what he does best and took the defenders on, beat them and beat Matt Ryan with a low shot on the left, scoring the 50th goal of this World Cup Finals. Netherlands finally had the lead and we must say at that point it wasn’t a deserving lead. But, Netherlands did not even have enough time to build upon their lead as 70 seconds later, Australia were back on level terms. The Dutch defence fell asleep and a superb ball by Leckie, led to Tim Cahill scoring with a well taken volley, the best goal we have seen in the World Cup so far. That was his 5th World Cup goal for Australia and he now has more goals than Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and Wayne Rooney (4) combined. The half wore on but the tempo of the game stayed the same, with some beautiful football from both sides. Although, Sneijder had a bad game, misplaying passes and drawing fouls from his teammates. The most notable moment of the latter part of the half was when Tim Cahill clattered into Bruno Martins Indi and the Dutch defender had to stretched off the pitch, with a very serious looking concussion. Memphis Depay came on and the Dutch now moved to their usual 4-3-3. At half time, Australia looked the better side and Netherlands needed serious restructuring if they wanted to win this game. They were extremely poor. Even captain van Persie said that they were awful in the first period. Robben and De Jong looked the best players from the Oranje and Cahill and Bresciano were the picks from the Australian team.
The second half started with tragedy for the Dutch as van Persie picked up his second yellow card of the World Cup for a stupid challenge on Matthew Spiranovic and will now miss the final group game. But it would get worse 6 minutes later as Australia was awarded a penalty after a cross hit Daryl Janmaat on his arm, a controversial decision once again. It didn’t matter for Crystal Palace’s Jedinak, who coolly sent Jasper Cillissen the wrong way and Australia were in the lead. But just 4 minutes later, a Dutch team who had produced absolutely nothing were back after Memphis Depay’s through ball found an unmarked and onside Robin van Persie inside the box, the Manchester United striker lashed home with his first real chance of the match. Clinical stuff by the Oranje. It seemed the Netherlands would take it home from here and they did not disappoint. Moments after Leckie’s close range header was saved by the keeper, Memphis Depay became the youngest ever Dutch player to score in a World Cup after his low, powerful shot was parried poorly by Matt Ryan and creeped in for the Netherlands to complete an astonishing comeback. They now got a stronger grip of the game and decided to step back and watch the game out. Australia were buffed time and again by a very rigid defence and eventually did not have what it takes to steal what should’ve been a deserving point.
It was heartbreak for the Socceroos who bowed out of the World Cup and delight for Louis van Gaal, whose tactics were good enough to claim 3 points on a tough day. The most notable contributions were those of Robben, Depay, Dr Vrij and Leckie who were extremely good on the ball. Robben influenced the game heavily, being the fulcrum of the Dutch attack and it was his movement on and off the ball that made Dutch so fluent. Memphis Depay’s impact was evident. One goal and one assist in his first 23 minutes of World Cup football, he is the first Dutch player to do so after coming off the bench. Lots of potential and he repaid the managers faith in his abilities. De Vrij was rock solid in defence and he gave it his all and made sure the Men in Yellow cannot get any clean chances on goal. Leckie and Oar had lots to be happy about after they put in tireless shifts and were extremely unlucky not to be on the scoresheet Australia effortlessly outplayed Netherlands. The tactic? Play on the wings and play fast. That is the best way to play versus a 3-4-2-1 and something Spain should’ve done. Eventually, Netherlands’ ability to be clinical helped as they won another game in which they have conceded a penalty goal. They did it versus Spain and have done it 3 times before in World Cups. Louis van Gaal can be happy with his team’s performance, but he must know there is still some work to be done. His team have qualified to the next round and look formidable opponents to any team. Netherland won the game, Australia won the hearts. An honourable mention to Everton legend Tim Cahill who scored the best goal of the tournament so far and was Australia’s biggest threat. A special mention to Robin van Persie who has scored 11 goals in his last 10 appearances for the Netherlands. He will be missed in the next game, but it really doesn’t matter that much as Netherlands and Chile have qualified, after Chile beat Spain 2-0 in the other encounter. Read our review for the game too, which will be out soon.
FIFA/Our Man Of The Match- Arjen Robben. He wins this award once again, after scoring his 3rd goal and going joint top scorer. It was a well taken goal, dispossessing a defender and running some 50 yards before converting. He was the most influential player on the pitch and he is the reason the Dutch scored the goals they did, bringing the spark and creativity to the game. His tireless galloping and ability to keep defenders on their toes was crucial today and he has been the best the player of the tournament so far. #Robbenhood.
Our Flop Of The Match- Wesley Sneijder. On a day when most players were underperforming, Wesley Sneijder was the pick of the names. Misplaying more passes than we can count, he looked very unsure about him game and will need to seriously work on his passing and control of the ball. He had a minimal impact on the game and he is now looking like a shade of the Wesley Sneijder of the 2010 World Cup.