Late goals from substitutes Leroy Fer and Memphis Depay secured a 2-0 win for Netherlands over Chile to top Group B.
In a disappointing game, Netherlands took control late on and managed to break through a Chile side who, seemed to be the better team up until then. The Dutch now march into the last-16 with three straight wins and in an ominous form. They are likely to play the winner of Mexico and Croatia, while Chile is likely to face the hosts, Brazil.
In the heat of Sao Paolo, neither side produced their best football and Chile had the upper-hand for much of the first half as their intense style suffocated Netherlands. As time went on Netherlands began to assert themselves and took the lead when Fer headed home Daryl Janmaat’s cross with his first touch since coming off the bench. Chile was made to pay for leaving him unmarked in the box. Chile has been defensively strong in this tournament so far but they struggled with Netherlands’ aerial threat.
As Chile pushed for an equalizer the superb Arjen Robben, who was a threat all afternoon, started a break-away down the left flank. He crossed for another substitute, Memphis Depay, to score in injury time. It was an eventful end to a drab game that needed a goal to spark it into life.
The South Americans dominated the first half and were guilty of missing two good chances through Felipe Gutierrez, who lost his composure in the penalty box after being well found from set-pieces. The notable absence of Robin Van Persie was a problem for the Dutch, who missed his goal threat and physical presence.
Dutch coach Louis van Gaal made three changes to the side that beat both Spain and Australia. Jeremain Lens replaced the suspended captain Van Persie, while centre-back Bruno Martins-Indi missed out through injury. He was replaced by striker Dirk Kuyt who took up an unusual left wing-back role, with Daley Blind moving into a more central position. Georgino Wijandum replaced Jonathan de Guzman. Chile made just one change and rested Arturo Vidal, with Gutierrez taking his place in midfield.
Arjen Robben proved to be the Netherlands’ main attacking option in Van Persie’s absence and he, again, showed his quality. He almost scored a wonderful individual goal in the first half, but his dragged shot ruined a super move which started inside his own half. That and a glorious chanced wasted by Stephan De Vrij from a Robben free-kick, were the only clear chances the Europeans created before Fer headed home.
Chile had several penalty shouts turned down and they will be frustrated that they couldn’t convert their pressure into more chances. However, they showed once again that they will be hard to beat in this tournament. Holland have built more momentum and the hype surrounding them will become stronger after this result where they won without playing at their best. In World Cup tournaments, that is a vital quality to have.