SALVADOR, BRAZIL (DPA) — Doubles from Robin Van Persie and Arjen Robben inspired the Netherlands to a sensational 5-1 victory over defending World Cup champions Spain in Salvador on Friday.
Salvador, Brazil (dpa) – Doubles from Robin Van Persie and Arjen Robben inspired the Netherlands to a sensational 5-1 victory over defending World Cup champions Spain in Salvador on Friday.
In a rematch from the 2010 final, Van Persie equalized a penalty kick from Xabi Alonso with a brilliant diving header in the final minute of the first half.
And after the break the Netherlands swept aside the lacklustre Spaniards with a clinical display of finishing. Arjen Robben put them in front in the 53rd minute before Stefan De Vrij and Van Persie, capitalizing on Iker Casillas errors, made the points safe.
Spain rarely looked capable of matching the Dutch, who sit proudly atop Group B, and Robben raced clear in the 80th to round Casillas and complete the scoring.
"It's unbelievable. For the whole of the Netherlands, a dream has come true," captain Van Persie said in a first television interview. "I can't explain it, but it's fantastic."
Spain coach Vincente del Bosque said his side had to accept the defeat.
"In the second half there were many, many mistakes. The euphoria carried the Dutch, we were uncertain. We brought the difficult situation upon ourselves," he said.
After a cautious opening, the first chance of the game came to Netherlands on eight minutes when Robben slipped Wesley Sneijder behind the defence only for the midfielder to fire his shot straight at Casillas.
But Spain slowly but surely began to dominate proceedings in the middle of the park and started to release Diego Costa and David Silva behind the Dutch backline.
The danger to the Netherlands was apparent and when Costa tumbled under a challenge from De Vrij, Spain earned a penalty. Costa seemed to play for the spot-kick but with De Vrij going to ground in a reckless manner to make contact, it was a difficult decision for the referee.
Dutch goalkeeper Jasper Cillessen got a hand to Alonso's penalty, but struck low and firm to his right, he could not keep it out.
The Netherlands had some half-hearted pressure in search of an equalizer but the next clear chance came for Spain. Silva tried to chip Cillessen but the keeper stood tall to make a strong block.
That save proved decisive as just minutes later the Netherlands levelled when a brilliant cross from Daley Blind, from just inside the Spain half, was met on the run by Van Persie.
The positioning of Casillas – caught out for a goal in the Champions League final last month – near the edge of the six-yard box was questionable once more and Van Persie's header looped high into the net.
If Spain were the better side in the first half, after the interval the Netherlands, and Robben in particular, vanquished four years of painful memories from the 2010 final with a breath-taking display.
It began in the 53rd minute as Robben controlled a pass from Blind on his chest and, reminiscent of Dennis Bergkamp in 1998, cut inside Gerard Pique and left Casillas helpless due to the deflection from Ramos.
Van Persie smashed a shot against the bar but moments later he would play an important part in the third goal. By putting pressure on Casillas as he tried to gather a free kick, he ensured the ball passed on to De Vrij who found the net from point blank range at the back post.
In a rare moment of resistance, Silva had a goal disallowed for offside. But Van Persie capitalized on a clumsy touch from the horrified Casillas in the 73rd minute to rob the keeper and make it 4-1.
Spain looked shell-shocked and their misery was completed 10 minutes from time as Robben raced clear to round Casillas and fire high into the net and condemn Vincente del Bosque's side to their second highest defeat in World Cup history.