Saturday, 14 June 2014

Spain 1-5 Holland: Robin van Persie and Arjen Robben score twice as Dutch stun world champions in Salvador


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  • Xabi Alonso gave Spain the lead from penalty spot in World Cup Group B
  • Van Persie equalised for Holland with a flying header
  • Robben put them ahead with a superb strike, Stefan de Vrij headed No 3
  • Van Persie took advantage of Iker Casillas' mistake to make it four
  • Robben rounded off the devastating victory
  • Diego Costa was booed throughout by the Salvador crowd
Three games in to this World Cup and already the champions have a weaker grip on their trophy. Spain lost the first game four years ago, too, but defeat by Switzerland back then cannot compare psychologically to the stunning events of Friday night.

Spanish coach Vicente del Bosque will ask himself quite how his team lost from a winning position. A goal up on the cusp of half-time, Spain were cruising.

What will have kept him awake, though, is the manner in which his team lose all semblance of discipline, confidence and organisation once they went behind.

For the final half an hour the world champions were an absolute shambles as Holland went on to exploit some surprising leaden-footedness in the Spain defence to score the goals that have threatened to turn this tournament on its head before it’s even properly got going.
Dutch destroyers: Robin van Persie embraces Arjen Robben on a superb night for Holland
Dutch destroyers: Robin van Persie embraces Arjen Robben on a superb night for Holland
Heading into the net: Robin van Persie hurls himself through the air to score a superb equaliser
Heading into the net: Robin van Persie hurls himself through the air to score a superb equaliser

Aerial ultra: Van Persie hangs as he watches his header go into the Spain net
Aerial ultra: Van Persie hangs as he watches his header go into the Spain net

Calamitous error: Van Persie robs Iker Casillas to poke home Holland's fourth goal
Calamitous error: Van Persie robs Iker Casillas to poke home Holland's fourth goal

Can't believe it: Casillas looks downcast as the Holland players celebrate Van Persie's goal
Can't believe it: Casillas looks downcast as the Holland players celebrate Van Persie's goal
Arjen Robben was the villain four years ago but here he played a perfect pass behind the Spanish defence to release Wesley Sneijder. The Galatasaray midfielder – making his 100th international appearance - had some distance to go to goal, but he was clear and should have done better than bring a relatively straight forward save from Iker Casillas, who had decided to stand tall.

Soon after, the Dutch were reminiscing again, this time through the brutality of their challenges.

Louis van Gaal had said on Thursday that there was nothing wrong with the way the Dutch approached the 2010 final but two challenges in quick succession by Nigel de Jong and Sneijder were thuggish in the extreme. That they chose to pick on Sergio Busquets – the most formidable man in the Spanish team – was indicative of bravery or stupidity.

Certainly the game had plenty in it during the opening exchanges. Often opening group games can be nervous, cautious affairs but here both teams wanted to get on the front foot and it made for some entertaining football. 

Diego Costa was booed at every turn by Brazilian fans irritated at his decision to choose Spain over Brazil and for some time it appeared as though the occasion was proving too much for him.

He was stopped in his tracks by a well-timed Ron Vlaar tackle in the 13th minute and then blazed wildly wide with his right foot after Manchester City’s David Silva played him clear down the right.

As the game settled down, Silva and Barcelona playmaker Xavi were having the greatest influence for Spain and it was Xavi’s pass to Costa that provided the game with a moment of genuine controversy just before the half hour.

Happy Holland: Louis van Gaal high fives Van Persie after the forward's brilliant equaliser
Happy Holland: Louis van Gaal high fives Van Persie after the forward's brilliant equaliser

Shut up: Diego Costa gestures to the Salvador crowd, who barracked him throughout the match
Shut up: Diego Costa gestures to the Salvador crowd, who barracked him throughout the match

Trip: Costa is caught by De Vrij inside the area in Salvador
Trip: Costa is caught by De Vrij inside the area in Salvador

On the way down: Costa is tripped by Stefan de Vrij and the referee pointed to the spot
On the way down: Costa is tripped by Stefan de Vrij and the referee pointed to the spot

Spot on: Xabi Alonso rolls his penalty to the right of Jasper Cillessen and into the corner
Spot on: Xabi Alonso rolls his penalty to the right of Jasper Cillessen and into the corner

Not too Xabi: Alonso celebrates putting Spain a goal up from the spot
Not too Xabi: Alonso celebrates putting Spain a goal up from the spot
At first glance Costa did seem to be brought down by Stefan de Vrij as he turned back inside on to his right foot but replays showed that he clearly placed his foot on top of de Vrj’s leg and, as such, no penalty should have been awarded.

Nevertheless, Spain had the chance to strike a real blow and Alonso did so, driving the penalty low to Jasper Cillessen’s right with his right foot. For a while the world champions seems set to assume total control. Certainly the game may well have been over had Silva done better after moving in to Andres Iniesta’s stunning reverse pass just before the interval. 

As it was, Cillessen was able to stand tall and touch Silva’s chip round the post and within a couple of minutes Holland were level. 

In truth they hadn’t looked much of an attacking threat in the minutes that followed Spain’s goal but that changed once left wing-back Daley Blind delivered a beautiful crossfield ball in to the path of Van Persie.

The Manchester Uniyed centre forward looked at first as though he would seek to control the ball on his chest but at the last moment he propelled himself forward and diverted a sensational header over Casillas, who had advanced in an attempt to narrow the angle.

At a stroke the Dutch were level and the wild celebrations that followed – including an untidy attempt at a high five between Van Persie and Van Gaal – showed how much it meant.

Thwarted: David Silva sees his chip comfortably saved by Cillessen
Thwarted: David Silva sees his chip comfortably saved by Cillessen
Proceed with caution: De Vrij (second right) is shown the yellow card by Nicola Rizzoli
Proceed with caution: De Vrij (second right) is shown the yellow card by Nicola Rizzoli
Clash of the titans: Alonso and Arjen Robben compete for a ball in the air as the Dutchman goes flying
Clash of the titans: Alonso and Arjen Robben compete for a ball in the air as the Dutchman goes flying
Stop right there: Holland defender Bruno Martins Indi (left) grabs hold of Spain midfielder David Silva
Stop right there: Holland defender Bruno Martins Indi (left) grabs hold of Spain midfielder David Silva
With the rain pouring at the start of the second half, mistakes were to be expected. Even so, it was astonishing to see Xavi conceded possession so cheaply as Holland sprang forward to take the lead.

Again it was Blind who swept the ball in from the left and when Robben pulled it down, the Bayern Munich player eased inside Gerard Pique and then lashed his shot past Casillas before Sergio Ramos could close him down.

It was a quite stunning goal and one that shook Spain. A few minutes later Daryl Janmaat supplied Van Persie with a pass and the United striker shook the bar with a crushing right foot volley.

By now, however, Holland were not to denied and in the 64th minute Casillas made a mess of a free-kick allowing Stefan de Vrij to bundle the third in virtually on the goal line.

Van Persie capitalised on another Casillas mistake for No 4 and Robben rounded off the rout.
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