Holland all but sealed their passage to the knockout stages of the World Cup with a 3-2 win over Australia. But it didn't come easy. The Socceroos fought valiantly and took the game to the Netherlands for long periods, before succumbing to a Memphis Depay winner from what will go down as a bad mistake from keeper Matthew Ryan. Here's the tale of the tape.
Australia started confidently, taking the initiative and showing a desire to attack their more illustrious opponents. The Socceroos tallied up 73.5% possession in the opening part of the game, managing more than double the number of passes than their opponents.
Whenever they did see the ball, Holland’s passing was lethargic and wayward. Stefan de Vrij, Nigel de Jong, Daryl Janmaat and Wesley Sneijder were all guilty of slack distribution.
Australia established an early period of dominance, but it was shattered in ruthless style in the 19th minute by the excellent Arjen Robben, who continued his impressive tournament with another goal, his third of this World Cup. Holland’s ruthless counter-attacking game paid dividends - Robben found a yard of space around the halfway line, got away from Alex Wilkinson, ran 50 yards and slotted low into the net. An outstanding strike.
But the lead lasted just a minute. From the kick-off, Tim Cahill scored an equally majestic, if not better goal – a sumptuous, Marco van Basten-style left foot volley the former Everton man absolutely battered into the net. It was Van Persie-esque in execution. A near-perfect strike that collided off the underside of the bar and in. 22 minutes gone, 1-1.
After 31 minutes possession evened out. Australia were still on top in terms of total passes, but final third passes stood at an even 11-11.
Just after the half-hour mark, defender Matthew Spiranovic missed a good chance after a fine delivery by Tommy Oar from a set-piece. Spiranovic was totally unmarked in the box and should perhaps have done better. Australia continued to rack up chances and impose themselves on Holland, who struggled to get to grips with a delightfully open encounter. Ante Postecoglou's side were comfortable on the ball and performing well, while Sneijder, De Guzman and De Jong failed to control midfield.
At half-time, the top eight players for passes completed in the final third were all Australian, with Ryan McGowan and Mathew Leckie leading the way.
Holland had been forced to do much of the defensive work to this point, making far more tackles than their supposedly inferior opponents.
In the 52nd minute Daryl Janmaat conceded a penalty, a rather soft award for a handball he appeared unable to avoid touching. Mile Jedinak scored to compund Janmaat's misery; the defender was having a difficult game. Minutes later Australia were nearly in again: De Jong made another mistake, giving the ball away in his own half to allow a counter- attack for Brozanic. Before you knew it, it was 2-2. Played in by substitute Depay, Van Persie blasted into the net after being played onside by Jason Davidson, who had sat five yards too deep despite being able to see across his defensive line. A poor decision, and it was all square in this thrilling game.
As the link man between defence and attack, Sneijder was struggling to make an impact.
Nonetheless, in the 68th minute came the winning goal. Depay was the match-winner, firing from long range into the bottom corner of the net. Really though, Ryan should have done much better. After Igor Akinfeev for Russia, it was a case of poor keeping for the second day running. Van Persie and Depay had combined to turn the game on its head.
Holland started to ramp up the pressure after scoring their third goal, while Australia wilted somewhat. Leckie was less influential in the second half and missed a good chance, Tommy Oar was quiet and Mark Bresciano's thrust was missed after he had been replaced. Holland racked up the shots on goal.
Australia couldn't find a way back and it finished 3-2 to Louis van Gaal's side. The Socceroos can rightly feel very downbeat in defeat, after holding their own and indeed dominating for spells of the game. In the end, though, defensive errors cost the Socceroos, while Holland's individual qualities shone through.
Facts and figures
- Arjen Robben has scored 8 goals in his last 8 games for the Netherlands and also has netted 4 in his last 4 World Cup games.
- Tim Cahill has netted 3 goals in his last 3 World Cup games.
- Daley Blind has provided 3 assists in 2 games in World Cup 2014.
- Tim Cahill has scored 5 of Australia’s 11 goals at the World Cup. Including assists (1) he has been involved in 54.5% of their all-time World Cup goals.
- There were just 70 seconds between Robben’s goal and Cahill’s equaliser.
- The Netherlands have now gone 7 World Cup games without keeping a clean sheet.
- In his first 23 minutes in World Cup football, Memphis Depay scored and assisted a goal for the Netherlands.
- Robin van Persie only completed 1 pass (out of 4 attempted) in the first half.
- Australia have conceded in each of their last 9 World Cup matches, shipping 2+ goals in 5 of those.
- The Dutch have won 3 of the last 4 World games in which they’ve gone behind.