June 14, 2014 in Sports

Big second half propels Netherlands past Spain in World Cup opener

Associated Press
 
Associated Press photo

Spain midfielder Xabi Alonso (14) and Netherlands forward Arjen Robben tussel for the ball during the first half in Salvador, Brazil.
(Full-size photo)(All photos)

The Netherlands thrashed the world champions 5-1 Friday in Salvador, Brazil, in the World Cup’s first shocker, toying with an aging Spanish team that has dominated global football for the past six years and avenging a loss in the 2010 final.

Although Spain could still advance out of Group B, the game may have signaled the end of the run by a generation of Spanish stars whose quick passing, “tiki-taka” style delighted the world and helped them win the last three major tournaments.

Dutch strikers Robin van Persie and Arjen Robben both scored twice, including Van Persie’s diving header off of a 40-yard pass. The ball looped over hapless Spanish goalkeeper Iker Casillas as van Persie slid on his stomach before running to the sidelines with his fists clenched to celebrate what is sure to be one of the goals of the tournament.

Defender Stefan de Vrij also scored – his first international goal – in a dominating second half that had the orange-clad Dutch fans in Arena Fonte Nova roaring.

“This was a total disaster,” said Spain striker Fernando Torres. “We need to focus on winning the next game.”

The victory was particularly sweet for Netherlands coach Louis van Gaal, who was criticized for his decision to play five defenders. He insisted the formation had attacking potential as well as nullifying Spain’s fluent passing game.

It did. And then some.

Spain’s ball-control offense usually has other teams frustratingly trying to gain possession. This time, the Dutch fans were roaring “Ole” as their team passed the ball around and Spain chased them.

Spain lost its first match in South Africa four years ago on its way to the title, and it could salvage tournament hopes with wins against Chile and Australia. But finishing second in the group, means facing the winner of Brazil’s group in a knockout game.

Van Persie credited Van Gaal’s tactics of defending hard and firing long passes to Robben and himself.

“We trained that way. And this is definitely down to him,” the Manchester United striker said of the coach who will take over at his club next season.

Van Gaal, in turn, highlighted his forwards’ performances.

“With strikers like van Persie, Robben and (Wesley) Sneijder behind them, things like this can happen,” the coach said.

Chile 3, Australia 1: Alexis Sanchez produced a dynamic performance to lead Chile to a Group B win over Australia in Cuiaba, Brazil, scoring one goal and setting up another for one of the dangerous outsiders in the tournament.

Sanchez poked home from close range in the 12th minute before setting up Jorge Valdivia barely a minute later to finish from the edge of the area.

But Australia recovered well, responding with a headed goal by star forward Tim Cahill in the 35th and giving the Chileans a string of scares in the second half. However, Jean Beausejour put the game away for Chile in injury time.

Mexico 1, Cameroon 0: Oribe Peralta scored in the second half to help Mexico to a victory over Cameroon in torrential rain in Natal, Brazil, earning El Tri their first World Cup win over an African team and giving them a crucial three points in Group A.

Peralta’s left-foot shot in the 61st minute justified coach Miguel Herrera’s decision to start him ahead of striker Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez, arguably Mexico’s best known player.

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