With both Netherlands and Chile already through to the knockout stages but the winner avoiding Brazil (in all likelihood), this affair was always going to be a testy fair of “hot potato.” The match only sparked into life with two goals in the final 15-minutes by the Dutch who qualify at the top of their group. Holland is looking good for an extended World Cup run whilst no team will fancy taking on Chile, not even Brazil.
Here are my 5 observations from the Netherlands-Chile match:
1. Systems, systems, systems
Tactically it was a fascinating battle with the Chileans predominantly going with a 3-4-3 whilst Louis Van Gaal’s Holland defended with five at the back with the system changing to a 3-5-2 and at times a 4-3-3 depending on the flow of the attack.
Chile pressed as they did in the first two games but the Dutch seemed happy to soak up the pressure and tried to hit Jorge Sampaoli’s side on the break. Arjen Robben had a couple of good opportunities to put the Dutch ahead after a couple of typically forceful runs but for most of the match clear chances were few and far between with the both sides looking dangerous from set-pieces.
Despite Holland’s tactical flexibility Chile were able to exploit gaps in their defense and played a few dangerous balls into the box. Indeed the Chilean’s did seem to get into the Dutch box with a fair bit of regularity and will argue that they should have had a penalty even if their players did go to ground a little easily.
2. Going through the motions
With both sides safely through to the knockout stages neither Holland nor Chile displayed the sense of urgency that was evident in the opening two games. On the Dutch side the likes of Georginio Wijnaldum, Dirk Kuyt and Jermain Lens were keen to impress but with progression assured both teams appeared to play a little within themselves.
Holland’s performance for much of the match did not meet with Louis Van Gaal’s approval who wasn’t happy with his side’s lack of intensity. Manchester United’s players should take note as the Iron Tulip is no shrinking violet and will let them know exactly how he feels should they not reach the heights that he expects of them.
Van Gaal though will be happy with how Holland finished the game making the most of their chances.
Jorge Sampaoli will have been satisfied with his team’s pressing but he will impress upon his squad the need to create and convert chances especially as their next match will be in the knockout phase. As Chile discovered to their cost it only takes one slip in concentration to concede a goal. Following their concession they further learned the dangers of chasing a game.
Chile must take these lessons on board otherwise they will find themselves dumped out of the competition.
3. Robben’s spatial awareness
He may be an individualist to put it kindly but Louis Van Gaal has harnessed Arjen Robben’s outrageous talents to maximum effect for Holland. Roaming across the frontline Robben has the knack of quickly finding and exploiting pockets of space. The extra yard or two that Robben gets himself is crucial as it allows him to utilize his explosive pace and it’s no surprise that Holland’s best chances were created by Robben. Indeed despite his selfish streak the Bayern Munich star laid a goal on the proverbial plate for Memphis Depay.
Robben’s pace along with his, Van Persie’s and Sniejder’s attacking intelligence will be crucial in the knockout stages where chances are more likely to be at a premium.
4. King Louis can do no wrong
Three games, three wins and in this match two inspired substitutions for Louis Van Gaal. The Dutch coach has more than enough belief in his own ability but even he must have been pleasantly surprised by the impact of his substitutes. It was Memphis Depay who initially forced the corner with a stinging shot and from the resulting set-piece Norwich’s Leroy Fer, who only just joined the action, rose highest to thump the ball home.
Depay himself joined Fer on the score sheet finishing off a lightning quick counter attack. The PSV youngster is one of game’s rising stars and is being scouted by Europe’s biggest clubs. PSV would dearly love to hold on to the talented Depay but if they’re forced to sell him the Dutch giants can expect a tidy sum for him.
5. Trivial trivia
You may not have realized it but with the absence of Robin Van Persie, Holland took to the field without a player with the name ‘Van’ for the first time since 1996. Just in case you’re wondering the last team to face a Van-less Dutch side was China. The Oranje beat their Chinese counterparts 2-0 with goals from Aron Winter and Johan De Kock. Pointless trivia, it’s what keeps the world turning.