In a match that wasn’t supposed to go the Netherlands‘ way, in a game the Dutch refused to call a rematch, defending World Cup champions Spain fell substantially short on June 13 in Salvador.
The media was swirling about conflicts and egos within the Dutch camp for days and how their squad was not comparable to the one they fielded in South Africa in 2010. They suffered from a weak defensive backfield. A calf injury to star midfielder Rafael van der Vaart, forcing manager Louis van Gaal to omit him from the selection, would only further make the Oranje vulnerable to the opposition.
The Spaniards broke the scoring drought in the 27th minute on what some will say was a controversial call. Whether intentional or not, a Dutch defender’s trail foot did cause a Spain player to fall in the box. Xabi Alonso capitalized on the penalty kick to put Spain up 1-0.
After that, the Oranje both humiliated and humbled Spain on the pitch for the near entirety of the remaining match. Robin van Persie started things off in the 44th minute, with what will surely be a candidate for goal of the tournament on a lovely header he lofted over the head of stunned goaltender Iker Casillas.
The Dutch defense may not be what it was four years ago, but today they were strong enough to not concede a single goal on the attack from the top-ranked team in the world, according to FIFA. What’s more, their world class strikers van Persie and Arjen Robben look more polished and composed than they were in 2010, and they were ultimately the difference makers, as each player was one goal shy of a hat trick.
The goals seemed to come almost too easily for the Netherlands against a back line composed of Sergio Ramos and Gerard Piqué, considered to be two of the premier defenders in all the world. A 5-1 final showed that the no. 1 ranked squad in the 2014 World Cup indeed does have its impotencies, one of which appeared to be the veteran Casillas, who crawled around the crease like a wounded dog before Robben put home his second goal of the match. What’s more, the final tally in this one showed that the Oranje’s strikers are at the top of their game. When that is the case, the sky will be the limit for the Dutch in this tournament.