When Spain and the Netherlands met for the World Cup championship in South Africa in 2010, most observers expected a close marking, low scoring game. They were right. It took 116 minutes of play — 90 minutes of regular play plus 26 minutes of extra time — before Andrés Iniesta of Spain broke the hearts of Orange fans everywhere by sending a half-volley skidding across the pitch underneath the frantic dive of the Dutch goalkeeper, Maarten Stekelenburg.
Today, at Arena Fonte Nova in Salvador, the Dutch exacted a satisfying — and shocking — revenge. The Orange first broke down, then exposed Spain’s back line, scoring 4 goals in the second half to win 5-1.
Five goals in a soccer match is a veritable tidal wave of scoring. And in a World Cup? Against the defending champions? Look up in the sky tonight and see if there’s a blue moon.
Spain looked disorganized from the beginning, although they managed to take a 1-0 lead when their Brazilian born striker Diego Costa went down in the penalty area on a questionable call. The Atlético Madrid product then buried the penalty kick giving Spain the lead.
Just before halftime, the Dutch responded by scoring one of the prettiest goals you’re bound to see during this year’s tournament. Daley Blind sent a long, shallow cross to the goal mouth from the left wing that Manchester United forward Robin van Persie headed beautifully over the keeper and into the back of the net.
The second half was all Netherlands:
The celebrations were even better eight minutes into the second half, when a piece of Robben magic gave them the lead.
Van Persie’s chip picked out his teammate, but he had plenty still to do as he controlled the ball brilliantly with the outside of his boot before turning Gerard Pique and Sergio Ramos, converting with a slight deflection off the latter.
There was no holding Netherlands back, though, Van Persie cracking a volley against the crossbar on the hour before De Vrij made it 3-1 from Sneijder’s curling free-kick. Casillas came to claim but failed, with De Vrij on hand to bundle home at the far post.
The pace only increased from there, Silva’s close-range finish chalked off for offside before Netherlands extended their lead to three in the 72nd minute. Casillas was wholly culpable this time, turning a harmless back pass into one dreadful touch and an open goal for the alert Van Persie.
Robben completed Spain’s misery with 10 minutes left, collecting Sneijder’s pass and then reducing Casillas and his defenders to a floundering mess as he made room for an emphatic finish.
Arjen Robben, the Bayern Munich star, was all over the pitch during the match, scoring twice and sending cross after cross to waiting teammates in the scoring area as the Spanish defense stood around in befuddlement.
Spain gave up more goals in this one game than they did during their entire 2010 championship run. The last two goals you could chalk up to Spain moving everyone forward, looking to get back in the game. But the Spanish keeper Iker Casillas of Real Madrid looked shaky and his lousy first touch of a simple back pass was gobbled up by van Persie who beat a Spanish defender to the ball and rammed it home.
Spain can recover. These are some of the best professional players in the world and you would expect them to forget this game and move on. But the road will not be easy. They will be tested by a strong Chile side on June 18 before finishing group play against plucky Australia on the 23rd. Two victories and they’ll win through to the Round of 16. Anything less and their fate will be out of their own hands.