The 2014 World Cup has its first historic moment as the Netherlands hammered Spain 5-1 in an incredible match in Salvador.
The champions were not just beaten, but absolutely ripped to pieces by a much-unfancied Dutch side that could have scored even more than the five they put past the reigning Spaniards.
Yet it was actually Spain who started the strongest, having several chances to put themselves in the lead through Diego Costa, who thrice broke clear of a ponderous Dutch backline to get in space.
The first such chance was denied by Ron Vlaar, who made a fine recovering tackle after the big striker hesitated, while a ponderous touch for the second allowed Daryl Janmaat to shepherd him into the corner.
The third, however, was the most decisive and the most controversial, as Costa was clearly brought down by De Vrij after cutting back inside, although replays showed he may have been looking for the contact. Nonetheless, it was a penalty, and Xabi Alonso stepped up to roll it into the bottom corner.
Spain were looking comfortable, but the Netherlands soon struck back with a majestic goal, Robin van Persie meeting Daley Blind’s long pass with a diving header that was more reminiscent of Nijinsky than Henrik Larsson, the ball sailing over Iker Casillas and into the net.
Suddenly, Spain seemed to waver, and the Netherlands took the lead shortly afterwards through Arjen Robben, the winger collecting another Blind pass before cutting inside and putting his shot past Casillas. And from there, Spain began to fall apart. A free-kick from Wesley Sneijder found Stefan de Vrij to make it 3-1, and Casillas’ horrorshow continued after when he presented the ball to Van Persie while playing out of defence, allowing the Dutchman to prod into the empty net.
Just when it seemed like things couldn’t get any worse for Spain, an unbelievable run and counter-attack from Robben made it five. The Bayern forward darted between his two markers to pick up a long pass, cut inside, left Casillas in a heap and then leathered the ball into the roof of the net past the waiting Spanish defence.
Incredibly, things could have been even worse – a ragged Spain defence came close to conceding three more times before they heard the referee’s whistle, with Fernando Torres almost pulling back a consolation goal but being denied by a last-ditch tackle. But the scoreline could not be improved – this was a mauling.
An historic evening in Brazil, and perhaps the greatest group stage match of all time.
28’ Costa penalty: Diego Costa appears to get a stonewall penalty, but replays show he may have deliberately put his leg out for De Vrij to collide with. Either way, Alonso puts it away to make it 1-0.
44’ van Persie stunner: Van Persie equalises out of nowhere with a majestic goal just before half-time.
52’ Robben puts Dutch in front: A fine goal by Arjen Robben has Holland ahead, but could Ramos really not suspect he was going to turn onto his left? It was bad enough that he let the winger get away from him in the first place.
72’ Casillas shocker: Spain finally lose all hope of victory when Casillas makes a disastrous error to allow Van Persie to score, surely threatening his position in the team in the process.
Is this the end of tiki-taka? Where to start? This annihilation of a passing team by a counter-attacking one was more brutal than Bayern Munich vs. Barcelona. It came on the biggest stage of all and in probabilty the greatest Group Stage match of all time. Spain aren’t out yet, but they have a big task to recover from this. Even France weren’t destroyed like that.
Spain have conceded 5+ goals in an international for the first time since losing 6-2 to Scotland in June 1963.
Robin van Persie has scored 10 goals in his last nine appearances for Netherlands.
Only once before had Spain conceded 5+ goals in a World Cup game (1-6 vs Brazil in Brazil in 1950).
The last team to beat Spain after conceding the first goal were Northern Ireland in September 2006 (3-2).
Spain only conceded two goals in the whole of World Cup 2010.
A four goal margin is the biggest losing margin by a defending champion at a World Cup.
Spain conceded 10+ shots on target for the first time in a World Cup game analysed by Opta (1966-2014).
Arjen Robben has scored seven goals in his last seven appearances for the Netherlands.
Daley Blind is the first Dutch player to provide two assists in a single World Cup match since 1998 (Wim Jonk v South Korea).
Spain conceded as many fouls as goals in this game (5).
This is only the third time the Netherlands have scored five goals in a World Cup game. Austria and South Korea were the previous victims.
Man of the Match
Arjen Robben: Just edges Van Persie, but the pair was simply unstoppable tonight. Spain’s defence could not get anywhere near them and as the game wore on, they improved and were even more deadly. Robben’s dribbling, creativity and finishing, however, was the real decisive influence, and Spain could do nothing at all every single time the Dutch launched an attack.
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