Netherlands stays perfect in Group B with win against Chile
JUN 23, 2014 2:00p ET
SAO PAULO --
The Netherlands defeated Chile 2-0 in their Group B finale on Monday afternoon, courtesy of a 77th-minute winner from Leroy Fer and a 92nd minute security goal from Memphis Depay in a fiery but fairly forgettable game. The Dutch became the first team to win all three of their games at this World Cup.
“I thought it was a game at the highest level that was won by the smartest team," said Dutch boss Louis van Gaal after the match. “Chile had one chance in the first half and that was it. I think it’s been proven that we give very little away and create a lot of chances.”
With both teams already through to the Round of 16, courtesy of wins against Spain and Australia by each side, this essentially became a tussle to avoid Brazil in the next round. It was assumed that the Brazilians would dispatch Cameroon later in the day, therefore clinching the top spot in Group A. As such, it was critical to both Chile and the Netherlands to win Group B and face the runner up from Brazil's group, rather than the host team. With the superior goal difference going into the game -- by a lone tally -- a draw would have suited the Dutch fine.
The stands at the Arena de Sao Paulo were brightly colored, with entire sections of fans clad entirely in orange or red. But no matter how much noise the fans made, and they made much on this sunny afternoon, they couldnât provoke the players into providing much entertainment. Both these sides are enslaved to their respective playing ideologies, and with neither team playing for its life and looking to eliminate risk -- and perhaps injuries -- a mostly tedious game of tactical chess broke out. Oranje's 5-3-2 against what amounted to a 3-5-2 from La Roja.
Neither team made major lineup changes, as sometimes happens in a dead rubber. Dutch star striker Robin van Persie was suspended due to yellow card accumulation and was replaced by Jeremain Lens. Defender Bruno Martins Indi was injured and replaced by Dirk Kuyt, who played as the left wing back with Daley Blind sliding into central defense. Jonathan de Guzman was the only player dropped, for Georginio Wijnaldum.
Chile benched only Arturo Vidal, who was been playing but still isn't entirely fit following knee surgery last month. Even without their finest ball-handler, the Chileans pinged the ball around early while switching positions all over the place -- not unlike Holland's Total Football of the 1970s -- with Charles Aranguiz mostly running the show.
Half-way through the first act, the Dutch stopped sitting in and seized the initiative, opening up corridors in Chile's suffocating press with quick combinations. Eventually, that led to the first chances of the half. In the 35th minute, Arjen Robben, who was his usual floppy self, won a soft free kick outside the box. The Bayern Munich forward lifted it to far post, where Stefan De Vrij dove onto the ball but headed it just wide.
Chile took a few tumbles in the box but got no calls. And then Robben went on one of the runs of the tournament in the 40th minute, picking the ball up inside his own half, staying on his feet on a challenge, running through and past the entire Chilean defense, but eventually sliding his finish wide of Claudio Bravo's goal.
It would prove to be the highlight of the game, as the second half was largely as uninteresting as the first. The Dutch looked the sharper side coming out of the break, but with playmaker Wesley Sneijder off the boil and Lens not up to the task of replacing van Persie, all the danger had to emanate from Robben.
And he couldn't do it all himself. Following a half-chance for Alexis Sanchez in the 65th minute, when the Chilean stayed on his feet in the Dutch box on a challenge but smashed his shot right onto Jasper Cillissen's fists from an acute angle, Robben went for another ramble. This time, he juked past several men and cut back to hesitate and rip off a shot. But it was too close to Bravo to trouble him.
At length, the game acquired a little zip in the final 20 minutes and Robben's teammate began pulling their own weight while Chile slumped. Kuyt almost headed home a corner and Memphis Depay, on for Lens, opened up space with some fancy footwork and lashed a shot from outside the box that Bravo could only just tip over. Off the ensuing corner, Fer, permitted far too much room, hammered home the winner with his head.
Chile demanded a few more penalties late on but were rightly denied them. And on a late breakaway with too much of La Roja committed forward, Nigel de Jong dispatched Robben, who squared for Depay, who had a simple tap-in to double the score.
In the end, the Dutch got the win and the prize, which will likely be to face Mexico or Croatia in the round of 16, instead than Brazil.
“There was a lot of passion on the pitch, I’m proud of how we defended as a team,” said Robben after the match. “If you had said ahead of time, ‘Nine points from three games,’ I think you have done fantastically well. But this isn’t where we want things to end. You get to enjoy this and it’s a fantastic achievement, but this isn’t where things should end. We want to go further.”