The Netherlands made an emphatic statement by easily dismantling the current european and world Champions Spain with a belief-defying 5-1 thrashing to open Group B. Many expect La Roja to be the team to beat, but Louis van Gaal's side made the early waves and set the group up well in their favour.
It was up to either Chile or Australia to capitalise on what could turn out to be just a momentary setback for the current holders, by winning the fourth match of the World Cup in Cuiaba. Chile were the overwhelming favourites prior to kick-off, with many suggesting that Australia would be whipping boys in not only this match, but over the course of their campaign.
And it was the South Americans who drew level on points with the Oranje in what may be deemed as a comprehensive win from the scoreline, but proved to be anything but. Alex Sanchez and Jorge Valdivia providing starring roles in a 3-1 win.
Barcelona star Sanchez opened the scoring after capitalising on some poor defending from the Socceroos who failed to clear the danger and stop a potential chance for Chile, despite having more numbers in defence.
A cute finish into Matt Ryan's near post set the South Americans on their way into what could conceivably have been a rout within the first half.
Valdivia immediately added to Chile's tally in quick succession, following impressive play by talisman Sanchez who turned Mile Jedinak too easily, attacked the space vacated by an impressive run from teammate Eduardo Vargas and laid it off to the welcoming Valdivia to execute a fine finish past the dismayed Australian number one.
From that point on, the result seemed a formality and the win would merely be a question of by how many goals. Australia failed to cope with Chile's quick incisive, passing and fluent movement as they initiated attack after attack. Australia failed to maintain their shape and concentration and were fortunate not to concede a third.
In fact it was the polar opposite for the Aussies, who retaliated in the 35th minute from a trademark looping header from the influential Tim Cahill. Strong play from Matthew Leckie saw an awkward clearance from Eugenio Mena return possession back to Australia, where the ball was subsequently worked out to Ivan Franjic who invited the teasing ball for Cahill to meet ahead of the small-in-stature Cardiff player Gary Medel.
That goal set the theme for what would come in the second half. Australia gained confidence and momentum and the industrious and tricky Leckie provided a constant headache for his competitor Mena, who was far more restricted in his attacking play for the second half. Cahill bustled with Medel and in particular Gonzalo Jara and brought others into play with aplomb.
The former Everton man would have equalised with an emphatic header was it not for the offside flag. A sensational whipped cross from Leckie evaded the attempted clearance of Jara and met the head of Cahill who finished sublimely into the far corner.
Unfortunately for the Socceroos, that almost moment would prove to be very sour. Chile had their chances and the sensational Sanchez displayed his sublime vision and guile to pin-point an accurate through ball for compatriot Vargas to convert with a deft touch beyond Ryan.
Much to the Chilean's dismay, however, centre-back Alex Wilkinson managed to recover and clear as the ball edged towards the goalline.
Australia displayed great endeavour as the game neared its close and remained committed, relentlessly attacked and almost got their rewards for that approach.
What they would ultimately receive, however, was a sucker-punch and not a reward. Wigan wide-player Jean Beausejour popping up with a late stoppage-time goal to seal the win and put Australia in a precarious position heading into a nervy game with Spanish conquerors Holland.
XI: Bravo - 6: Isla - 6: Medel - 5: Jara - 6: Mena - 5: Diaz - 6: Aranguiz - 7: Vidal - 6: Sanchez - 8: Valdivia - 7: Vargas - 7
Subs: Gutierrez - 6: Beausejour - 7: Pinilla - 5
XI: Ryan - 5: Franjic - 6: Wilkinson - 5: Spiranovic - 6: Davidson - 5: Leckie - 7: Jedinak - 6: Milligan - 5: Oar - 4: Bresciano - 6: Cahill - 7
Subs: McGowan - 5: Halloran - 5: Troisi - 5
Feel free to offer your verdict on which players excelled and how the group fares heading into the second round of games in the comment below.
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