Netherlands wins 5-1 against world champion Spain
Robin van Persie and Arjen Robben both score twice
Chile beats Australia in Friday's other Group B game
Mexico defeats Cameroon 1-0 in Natal in Group A
The Netherlands gained sweet revenge for defeat in the 2010 World Cup final by trouncing Spain 5-1 in the opening fixture of Group B in Salvador Friday.
Xabi Alonso had given Spain the lead from the penalty spot after Diego Costa was brought down by Stefan de Vrij before Robin van Persie equalized with a brilliant diving header.
Arjen Robben then fired the Dutch in front at the beginning of the second half before de Vrij atoned for his earlier foul on Brazil-born Costa to make it 3-1 just after the hour mark.
A horrible error from Spain goalkeeper Iker Casillas enabled van Persie to make it four after 72 minutes and Robben burst clear of the Spanish defense eight minutes later to round off the scoring.
The result is Spain’s worst at a World Cup finals in 64 years and leaves little room for error in the 2008 and 2012 European champion’s remaining group games against Chile and Australia.
The Dutch, meanwhile, will take great confidence having overcome the team that denied them in Johannesburg four years ago.
The Netherlands employed a physical approach when the sides met that night in Soccer City and there was much of the same during the opening stages at the Arena Fonte Nova as the Dutch pressed early, creating the first clear chance for Wesley Sneijder – whose shot was blocked by Casillas.
Sneijder was made to regret his profligacy midway through the first half after Costa was felled in the area.
The striker, who was born a few hundred miles north of Salvador and twice capped by Brazil in friendlies, was roundly booed by many of the local fans in attendance for switching his allegiance to Spain earlier this year.
Alonso ignored the animosity directed towards his teammate from the stands, however, as he drilled his penalty low to the right of Jasper Cillessen.
David Silva should have doubled Spain’s lead shortly after being played through by 2010 match-winner Andres Iniesta but the Manchester City midfielder’s delicate chip was slapped away by Cillessen.
Moments later the Netherlands were level.
Daley Blind’s floated long pass was met on the run by van Persie and the striker launched a flying header that looped the ball brilliantly beyond Casillas.
If that was a shock to the Spanish system, worse was to follow six minutes in to the second half as the Dutch took the lead.
Another Blind crossfield pass found Robben galloping into the Spanish penalty area. The Bayern Munich star displayed a deft touch to control the ball before stepping inside Gerard Pique and clipping it beyond Casillas.
Van Persie then rattled the Spanish crossbar with a ferocious strike from just outside the area, and five minutes later it was 3-1. De Vrij rose at the back post to bundle the ball over the line after Casillas could not claim Sneijder’s free-kick.
Things would soon get worse for the Spanish captain.
His terribly heavy touch following a simple backpass from Jordi Alba enabled van Persie to steal the ball and slide it into an empty net to make it four.
At this stage Dutch fans could have been excused for believing they were dreaming. But more was to follow as a now ragged Spain was picked off on the break.
Robben displayed his searing pace to streak clear of Sergio Ramos after 80 minutes before rounding a despairing Casillas and blasting the ball high into the unguarded net.
Spain, well beaten, looked lost – a shadow of the side which has dominated international football for the last six years.
The famous tiki-taka style that has been the team’s hallmark throughout this golden period was rendered useless against a disciplined, well-organized and ruthless Dutch side.
Substitute Fernando Torres had a late penalty claim turned down and then took too long to convert what appeared a simple chance from three yards out that would have reduced the deficit. The Chelsea striker’s ineptitude in front of goal summed up Spain’s performance perfectly.
“I did not expect that it would go this way, it could have been 6-1 or even more, and we had a very happy feeling,” Dutch coach Louis van Gaal told reporters after the match.
“This is a nice start, but we have nothing. If we do not win our next game against Australia we have made no progress, but now we are obviously in a good position.”
Cutting a more chastened figure was Spain coach Vicente Del Bosque who lamented his side’s performance but refused to apportion any blame ahead of Wednesday’s next match against Chile.
“We must recognize our mistakes, but everyone fought for a better result,” Del Bosque told Spanish TV station Tele 5 after the match.
“I am aware that it is a very delicate time for us. Together we have to try to solve it for the next match against Chile and look for the win.”
Chile 3-1 Australia
A win against the in-form South Americans is no certainty for Del Bosque’s charges.
Jorge Sampaoli’s side looked impressive in spells against Australia, winning Group B’s second fixture of the day at the Arena Pantanal in Cuiaba.
Barcelona star Alexis Sanchez opened the scoring after 11 minutes for La Roja, pouncing on a loose ball to place it beyond Australia goalkeeper Mathew Ryan from nine yards.
Jorge Valdivia then made it two just over a minute later as he curled the ball delightfully beyond Ryan with the outside of his boot from the edge of the area, having been teed up by Sanchez.
Veteran midfielder Tim Cahill pulled a goal back for the Socceroos with a trademark header after 35 minutes, and the New York Red Bulls player was denied by a smart save by Claudio Bravo shortly after.
Cahill, who has now scored at three World Cups, had another header rightly chalked off for offside in the second half, but Chile always looked the more likely to score again.
Alex Wilkinson cleared off the line from Eduardo Vargas after the Chilean striker had clipped the ball beyond the onrushing Ryan after 72 minutes.
Substitute Jean Beausejour then ensured victory in stoppage time with a low strike from 25 yards that flew past Ryan.
While no doubt frustrated by the loss, the Socceroos can take some solace from the fact that Spain’s earlier collapse against the Netherlands ensures it is the reigning world champions who prop up Group B after the first round of fixtures.
Mexico 1-0 Cameroon
In the day’s first fixture, Mexico overcame Cameroon, the weather and some more questionable World Cup officiating to win its opening Brazil 2014 fixture.
Oribe Peralta scored the only goal of the game just after the hour mark, rifling home after Cameroon goalkeeper Charles Itandje couldn’t hold Giovanni Dos Santos’ low shot.
Two wrongly disallowed Dos Santos goals had earlier denied the Mexicans a halftime lead their enterprising performance deserved.
Thursday’s tournament opening fixture between Brazil and Croatia was marked by a controversial decision to award the host nation a penalty in the second half by Japanese referee Yuichi Nishimura.
But Peralta’s strike ensured any controversy would be avoided and El Tri would triumph on a sodden afternoon in Natal.
The win put Mexico second in Group A behind leaders Brazil which triumphed 3-1 on Thursday in Sao Paulo.
Cameroon, unimpressive and soundly beaten, is third above Croatia on goal difference in the four-team group.