You could be forgiven for thinking, after the Netherlands had smashed the current World Cup holders Spain 5-1 last week, that Australia would be more than a little over-matched when they took on the Dutch in Porto Alegre today. In reality, though, the game was a tight and entertaining one as the Netherlands eventually emerged victorious 3-2.
The Australians were fantastic from the very start and looked like they could be on course for a famous victory when Mile Jedinak put them 2-1 ahead from the penalty spot. It was their opening goal by Tim Cahill which stole the show, however, after an incredible left foot volley from around 12 yards out which flew in after clipping the crossbar.
The technique of the volley, for a player who is not a designated striker, and certainly not left footed, was sublime and would be deserving of winning any game. It was not to be for Australia, however, as the Dutch rallied after halftime — no doubt on the end of a few choice words from coach Louis Van Gaal.
The Netherlands were poor in the first half and Australia were the better team over the course of the first 45 minutes. At the end of the first half, Bruno Martins Indi was carried off injured and Memphis Depay came on to replace the defender as Van Gaal changed the shape of the Dutch team.
It wasn’t the only thing that changed after the halftime break, as the Netherlands reemerged with a lot more intent and vigor about their play with Depay being a chief protagonist along with Arjen Robben and Robin Van Persie. When the Dutch eventually hit their stride, it was difficult for the Australians to live with them, and the Dutch fans will be rightly questioning just why it took so long for their team to reach that level.
It matters not now, of course, as the Netherlands are virtually assured of a place in the knockout stages after this win. Although when they begin the knockout stages of the tournament, they’ll have to start faster than they did today, that’s for sure.