Sometimes words just can’t do justice to describe a game of soccer. The first half of Netherlands against Spain was entertaining enough but the action in the second were simply breathtaking.
Whenever Holland attacked in the second period, they looked like they were going to score whilst the Spaniards were made to look like an amateur side rather than World Champions.
When the World Cup holders lose their opening game, it’s big news. When they’re thumped 5-1, it sends shockwaves throughout the soccer world. Spain was lucky to ‘only’ concede five goals as the Dutch had a number of chances to make the scoreline even more humiliating.
This result has well and truly lain to rest the ghosts of the 2010 World Cup Final for the Dutch. For Spain the prospect of facing Brazil in the knock out phase of the tournament has become an all too realistic possibility.
Here are 6 observations from the Netherlands-Spain match:
1. Does fate hold a crumb of comfort for Del Bosque?
When the Spanish began the 2010 World Cup, they lost 1-0 to Switzerland in what could truly be described as a smash and grab raid by the Swiss. It was a freak result and the Spaniards dusted themselves off and went on to win the tournament.
Losing 5-1 is humiliating for the Spanish but they have to treat this as another freak result and get back to winning ways as soon as possible. Whereas against the Swiss in 2010, Spain could count themselves unlucky. This time, they were comprehensively ripped apart by a rampant Dutch side. Vicente Del Bosque will have to pick up his side after they suffered a huge psychological blow but if there is one small thing he can cling on to it is that Spain have won the World Cup before despite losing their opening group game.
2. A tale of two goalkeepers:
The focus will be on Iker Casillas for being caught in no-mans land when Robin Van Persie headed home a superb equalizer and then gifting the Dutch captain a second when he could not control a simple back pass. Casillas could also argue that he was the victim of a foul when Holland scored their third courtesy of Stefan De Vrij.
However it was his Dutch counterpart, Jasper Cillessen, who made the match’s key goalkeeping intervention. With Holland trailing one-nil, Cillessen made a huge save denying David Silva. Had the Manchester City star scored, then the complexion of the game would have been completely different. Cillessen’s heroics turned the game in favor of the Dutch and in hindsight he made a match winning save.
3. Dutch Master Class:
It took a while for Louis Van Gaal’s side to get going but once they did, there was nothing Spain could do to stop them. The Dutch seemed to have all the keys to unlock the World Champion’s defense.
When Spain played a high line they were susceptible to balls over the top and deep crosses as demonstrated by Robin Van Persie’s sumptuous header from a fantastic delivery by Daley Blind. When the World Champions dropped deep, they simply invited Arjen Robben to run at their defense and cause all sorts of problem.
The Dutch seemed to have an answer to whatever the Spanish threw at them especially in that whirlwind second half.
Everything clicked for the Dutch and credit must go to Louis Van Gaal for preparing his side and ensuring that his team was tactically flexible. The players deserve plaudits too for putting on a scintillating display of cut and thrust football.
Manchester United fans must be rubbing their hands in anticipation of what Van Gaal could do at Old Trafford.
4. Return to tiki taka?
When Diego Costa pledged his allegiance to Spain, he was regarded as the final piece needed to complete World Champion’s jigsaw. Finally, Spain had a top class striker to compliment the world beating talent in their midfield. Spain though was unusually direct perhaps as a result of the temptation to hit the Costa early. It was a style of play that the World Champions didn’t seem completely comfortable with.
Costa did win his side a controversial penalty but overall didn’t seem to fit in with the Spanish system. He was fortunate not to be sent off after clashed with Bruno Martins Indi. Indi didn’t cover himself in glory with his reaction but it was clear that Costa wasn’t imposing himself on the game as much as he would have liked.
With the Spaniards needing a win in the next game don’t be surprised if they decide to rededicate themselves to their tiki taka philosophy that has served them so well.
5. Robin and Robben – The Dynamic Dutch Duo:
Robin Van Persie had a relatively quiet first half until he scored THAT header. Once the momentum was with the Dutch, Robin and Robben took full advantage of Holland’s superiority. Van Persie linked up with Robben for Holland’s second goal with the former accepting a gift from Iker Casillas to make it 4-1. Robben’s second goal demonstrated the sheer pace he possesses as he out ran Sergio Ramos before beating the demoralized Casillas. In all fairness, both Van Persie and Robben could have had hat tricks and the Dutch should have won by more.
Whilst Van Gaal has gone with a relatively young squad, he would have been delighted with the contributions of his experienced players such as Van Persie, Robben, Sneijder (who should have scored too) and De Jong.
6. Next steps for the Dutch and Spanish:
The challenge for the Dutch now is to make sure that they follow up this amazing result with another win against Australia. Van Gaal will ensure that they squad keeps their feet on the ground and he’ll realize that keeping up the momentum will be vital if Holland are to have another good World Cup run.
For Spain, the next game is vital and they will not relish a match against Chile. The World Champions cannot let this thrashing affect them psychologically and must acknowledge that it was a just freak result. Moreover they have to get back into the rhythm that saw them win the World Cup in 2010. Easier said than done of course.
SEE MORE — Read our Netherlands World Cup Preview.