The FIFA World Cup game between Spain and the Netherlands was one of the most anticipated games in the early stages of the tournament. The two teams that kicked off Group B’s group play were the same teams that played for the 2010 FIFA World Cup title back in Germany. Though both teams had changed significantly since the last World Cup, a highly physical game mirroring the 2010 final was something that most people expected this time around. There was a lot of concern about how the inexperienced Dutch defense would perform, and after today, the Dutch have demonstrated that concern was grossly misplaced.
The task for any team that faces Spain will always be to subdue their midfield. Arguably the best midfield in the World Cup, the Spanish squad has the capacity to dictate the pace of the game if unchecked in the midfield. In anticipation of this, the Dutch squad came out with a 5-3-2 formation, employing the triangle formation. Doing what Spain does, Diego Costa and Andrés Iniesta exposed major gaps in the Dutch defense. The Spanish midfield was able to send dangerous through balls throughout the first half. One of which resulted in a questionable foul against Diego Costa in the box. Xabi Alonso converted the penalty kick in the 27th minute, giving the Spanish team a 1-0 lead over the Netherlands.
The Spanish defense was also caught flat on several occasions in the first half, ultimately completely breaking down in the second half. Arjen Robben was able to slip through the back line on long balls sent out of the back, causing problems for the Spanish defenders from the get go. In the 44th minute, Daley Blind launched a ball from the back and found Robin van Persie’s head. Van Persie was able to catch a flat Sergio Ramos off guard before finishing what will be the diving header to beat this FIFA World Cup. Capitalizing on the counter, Robben started out the second half by scoring the second goal for the Dutch, giving Oranje a 2-1 lead over Spain in the 53rd minute.
Things immediately turned from bad to worse for the Spaniards. The Dutch continued to apply pressure up top, winning a foul outside the box in the 64th minute. De Vrij was able to score off the set peace, giving the Netherlands a 3-1 lead. Silva turned around and tried to finish a deflected ball in the Dutch six-yard box but was called offsides, effectively thwarting whatever chance Spain had to stay in the game.
Spanish goalkeeper Iker Casillas gave an awful touch in the 73rd minute and van Persie was able to steal the ball away and put it in the back of the net, extending the lead to 4-1. The Spanish defense completely checked out and Robben was able to snag his second goal of the game in the 80th minute, taking the score to its final state at 5-1. The Spanish had not conceded this many goals in a World Cup fixture since 1950.
Ruud van Nistelrooy celebrated as his country upset the former FIFA World Cup champions. The former Netherlands player noted that, “This was a massive statement to make” on behalf of football in his country. He continued, “We worked so hard…to keep believing in our style.”
As the first game of FIFA World Cup’s Group B has come and gone, the massive upset that was delivered by the Dutch will certainly be fresh in the minds of Spain as they face Chile next Wednesday. Whatever fears there were regarding the Dutch defense have been overshadowed for the moment in light of their spectacular performance up top. Robben and van Persie both walked away two goals, and Vrij came away with his first goal. All around a great success for the Netherlands, and an equally damaging experience for Spain.
Commentary by Courtney Anderson
Observation by Courtney Anderson
Guardian Liberty Voice