SPAIN 1, NETHERLANDS 5 (WORLD CUP GROUP B)
NETHERLANDS GET SWEET REVENGE FOR WORLD CUP 2010 DEFEAT AT THE HANDS OF SPAIN
Four years ago the Dutch had to resort to trying to kick the Spanish off the pitch in the World Cup final in South Africa culminating in a final that would only be remembered for the 14 yellow cards, a red card and an unpunished kick in the midriff for Xabi Alonso delivered by Nigel de Jong. This time – under new management – a more modest Dutch team gained sweet revenge and more by playing the game as it should be played. It was certainly the game most people expected in 2010.
The Dutch had been written off by their own countrymen before this game but pulled off a stunning shock as they came back from a goal down to slaughter a Spain side that some had described as ‘over the hill’. The final result was 5-1 and sent shockwaves through the tournament.
FIVE THINGS WE LEARNED FROM SPAIN AND THE NETHERLANDS
ARE SPAIN NOW OVER THE HILL?
Some of Spain’s veteran players will now be under intense pressure after comprehensively failing tonight. Iker Casillas, who hasn’t had much game time this season for Real Madrid, made errors, Sergio Ramos and Gerard Pique looked poor and Spain lacked penetration later in the game. Could Spain’s ageing legs be unsuitable for the high pressing game that served them so well in previous tournaments?
Spain manager Vincente del Bosque is trying to change their tactics by going more direct with reliance on Diego Costa as a proper target man. The naturalised Brazilian striker had a sparkling season with Atletico Madrid but went off early in the Champions League final as a gamble by manager Diego Simeone backfired. He came into the World Cup lacking match fitness but are they the Spanish relying on a temperamental firebrand of a forward who seemed to escape unpunished by referee Nicola Rizzoli after a second half head butt on Bruno Martins Indi?
The Spanish were perhaps a little lucky to get an early penalty after Diego Costa went down under a challenge from Stefan de Vrij. Xabi Alonso duly converted the spot kick and David Silva could have extended the lead after being put through by Andres Iniesta before the Dutch mounted the counter attack. Silva was offside as Spain thought they had pulled a goal back in the second half.
TORRES SUMS UP SPAIN’S NIGHT
Chelsea fans will find this too familiar but Fernando Torres could have scored a consolation in injury time when he went clear but couldn’t even get a shot off before the Dutch got back to deny him.
LOUIS VAN GAAL WILL LIGHT UP THE PREMIER LEAGUE
Louis Van Gaal lost his talismanic midfielder Kevin Strootman before the World Cup but reorganised and instead opted for a five man defence with flying full backs to counter the Spanish threat but it was still risky business until the Spanish spirit was broken under the Dutch onslaught.
That level of astuteness and loyalty from players like Robin Van Persie could see United return to the Champions League big time at the first attempt with the right signings.
Bruno Martins Indi could be a useful asset for United if rumours of a move for him were accurate.
ATTACK, ATTACK… ATTACK, ATTACK, ATTACK!
Going forward the Dutch are still extremely dangerous. Wesley Sneijder in just the 8th minute should have put Holland 1-0 up but could only shoot straight at Iker Casillas.
Manchester United can look forward to Robin Van Persie working closely with Louis Van Gaal. Van Persie ran back to the Holland bench for a high five with Van Gaal after his stunning flying header from Daley Blind’s superb looping pass to level the scores. He also hit the bar in the second half with a shot that could have killed off the Spanish, although he could have been offside.
Arjen Robben is still a lethal forward using his pace and direct running to panic defenders. It’s perhaps something that England could look to emulate using Liverpool’s Raheem Sterling. He raced onto Robin Van Persie’s lobbed pass in the 53rd minute, rounded ex-Man Utd defender Gerard Pique and put the Netherlands into the lead.
Stefan de Vrij’s back post header from a Dutch set piece in the 64th minute made it 3-1 and effectively finished off the Spanish as a force. Casillas tried to complain that Van Persie had fouled him while the ball was looping in but the referee wasn’t having any of it.
Van Persie poached the Dutch fourth goal after a howler by Iker Casillas in the 72nd minute – the Spanish legend was altogether too lax when gathering the ball for a clearance. He showed too much of the ball to the Dutch captain who punished his Spanish counterpart by nipping in to put Spain to the sword.
Robben made it five with over ten minutes to go after burning off Sergio Ramos with pure pace, bamboozling Iker Casillas and rifling past two defenders on the line.
There could conceivably have been a sixth goal for the Dutch but Georginio Wijnaldum’s shot was charged down and Robben’s follow-up was parried by Casillas.
Each goal had something to savour for Manchester United fans looking forward to a little more adventure under their incoming manager.
GAPS IN SALVADOR
It was sad to see empty gaps in a stadium, especially with such a cracking tie on offer even before we actually got to see the spectacle of a Spain side ruthlessly taken apart by the Dutch.