The victory was not a shock. But the scoreline? That’s a different story. The Netherlands rocked the title holders 5-1 in their Group B opener on Friday, gaining a measure of revenge against Spain for the 2010 final and putting La Roja’s title defence in serious doubt.
Down 1-0, Robin van Persie sparked the whitewash with one of the goals of the tournament, and it was all Netherlands after that. Van Persie ended up with a brace and so did a scintillating Arjen Robben.
One of the finest headers you’ll ever see turned the match on its head. Spain was up 1-0 and in control of the match when Van Persie came out of nowhere to score the equalizer right before halftime.
A magnificent long pass from midfielder Daley Blind from the halfway line picked out a streaking Van Persie, who managed to fully stretch out and put a perfect header past Iker Casillas to even the score.
Man of the match
Van Persie. How can you give it to anyone else after that goal?
It was a good day for…
Vengeance. The Netherlands had to wait four years for another shot at Spain, after coming oh-so-close to winning the World Cup. The Dutch didn’t waste their chance this time around.
It was a bad day for…
The Spanish defence. The back line that only gave up one goal in Spain’s entire World Cup run in 2010 was ripped to shreds against the Dutch, who made them look their age. Not good for a team trying to defend their title.
Overall entertainment rating
4/4. Six goals, shocks galore, and plenty of hatred. What more can you ask for a rematch between heavyweights?
What does this mean?
The Netherlands might have gone from “dark horse” to “contender” in just 90 minutes. No doubt that Spain is on the decline, but La Roja’s defence was still seen as solid. The Oranje made it look pedestrian and slow with their speed. And the win means the Dutch are in great shape to avoid a clash with the hosts in the round of 16. Next up is Australia on Wednesday (CBC TV, cbc.ca/fifaworldcup, Noon ET).
On the flip side, Spain has major worries. La Roja’s defence was woefully exposed and they were uncharacteristically wasteful with possession as the match wore on. That doesn’t bode well with a speedy and dangerous Chile side waiting on Wednesday (CBC TV, cbc.ca/fifaworldcup, 3 p.m. ET). If Spain’s defence doesn’t come together for that game, La Roja could be out after two matches.
They said it
"We lost because the whole team underperformed. Even though I’m not going to compare this defeat to the one we suffered to Switzerland four years ago, we have the experience and it’s still just the three points that we’ve dropped." — Vicente del Bosque, Spain manager
"It’s amazing. This is a dream come true for us and that’s why we need to enjoy the moment." — Robin van Persie