Historic. Shocking. Amazing. Unbelievable.
It’s no exaggeration that all of these words are applicable when talking about the Netherlands-Spain game especially because the whole of the Netherlands had virtually written off their chances of even getting out of the group.
Soccer. This wonderful, crazy and inexplicable game turns on moments. Moments of skill. Moments of luck. Had David Silva not tried to be too precise and too beautiful, would things had been the same?
In the first half, Holland were holding on, being pulled and teased. The Spanish were toying with the Dutch and their new, much discussed system although they still looked dangerous – with a golden trio upfront that will always be the case. And Sneijder had the game’s first and best chance but didn’t have the conviction of a player who knew he would score.
But soccer is about moments. And oh what a moment from Robin van Persie. This is a goal that will join the National Dutch Football museum (if they ever have one) and sit proudly alongside Van Basten’s volley, Cruyff’s turn and Bergkamp’s ballet.
ROBIN VAN PERSIE’S GOAL (Netherlands 1-1 Spain)
It was a magnificent, magnificent pass from Daley Blind, a pass of fabulous trajectory, speed and weight. As the ball traveled in the air, Van Persie will have calculated in those milliseconds all of the available options.
After running through the countless options, he decided to take the one that would give the keeper no time to react. His execution of choice would be a diving header precisely measured to evade Casillas and drop into the net.
After Van Persie scores the goal, the mood changes. The Dutch believe again. Doubt seeps into even the most experienced minds.
DALEY BLIND’S PASS TO ARJEN ROBBEN AND HIS TRICKERY (Netherlands 5-1 Spain)
A fresher looking Holland appear in the second half – eager, quick to bite and devastatingly precise and quick on the counter.
Van Persie and Robben – a duo no defense wants to see running at them backed up by a wiser, older Sneijder, still with his impudence but tempered by age. This could be interesting.
A 5-1 score line was perfect, it emphasises the superiority of the Dutch in the second half but doesn’t suggest a freakishly bad Spanish performance that the 6, 7 or even 8-1 could have done and taken the shine off it for the Dutch and been written off a as a fluke, freak result.
5-1 is a clinical hammering, a perfect result to focus minds all round.
From a position of ‘let’s see what happens we’ll be lucky to get out of the group,’ the nation is now starting to dream again – how quickly can soccer change.
Moments change games and Van Persie’s moment may change the course of this World Cup.
Editor’s note: Mark Burke is an English former footballer who played as a midfielder. A player skilled at retaining the ball, he enjoyed a 15 year professional career in England, the Netherlands, Japan, Romania, and Sweden. He played for clubs including Aston Villa, Rapid Bucharest, Middlesbrough, and Wolves.