The Netherlands reaffirmed their World Cup intentions in Sao Paulo yesterday evening, as they put Chile to the sword with two late goals and ended the group stages with maximum points.
Leroy Fer headed in with 13 minutes to play before Memphis Depay scored his second goal of the tournament to ensure the Dutchmen avoided facing likely Group A winners Brazil in the last 16.
The early stages of the match were littered with clumsy fouls from both teams – who had already progressed to the next round - and, despite exciting build-up play from Chile and dangerous counter-attacks from the Netherlands, neither goalkeeper had a shot on target to deal with.
Eugenio Mena threaded a low cross into the box in the 18th minute, which was left by Charles Aranguiz, but missed by Alexis Sanchez who slipped at the crucial moment.
Four minutes later, a Sanchez corner found its way to Felipe Gutierrez, who was leaning too far back for his attempt to cause goalkeeper Jasper Cillessen any sort of trouble.
Chile felt they should have been awarded two penalties in five minutes towards the end of the first-half as Sanchez and Aranguiz were both felled in the area, but referee Bakary Gassama correctly adjudged that neither player had been fouled.
As the half drew to a close, the Dutch continued to create few chances although Jeremain Lens tried an ambitious 30-yard effort before Arjen Robben went close with a mazy run from inside his own half, only to shoot wide.
The Netherlands’ best chance came ten minutes from half-time, as Stefan de Vrij’s header from Robben’s free-kick landed just wide of the target.
The second-half started the same way as the first with both sides initially failing to register any shots on target; the exception being Robben’s snapshot on 66 minutes that was easily claimed by Barcelona-bound Claudio Bravo.
Norwich City’s Fer replaced Wesley Sneijder 16 minutes from time and put Louis van Gaal’s men ahead two minutes later as he leapt high above the Chilean defence to power a header into the net from Daryl Janmaat’s cross-field ball.
Chile piled on the pressure soon after and thought they had earned a penalty when Mauricio Pinilla was scythed down, only to find the linesman already had his flag raised for offside.
In the second minute of injury time, Robben was again involved as he ran 60 yards with the ball to the by-line and pulled a cross back for 20-year-old Depay, who slotted in at the back post.
The Netherlands – who have not lost a World Cup group match since USA 1994 – top Group B with the maximum 9 points and will face the Group A runner up in Fortaleza on Sunday, whilst Chile will face the Group A winner in Belo Horizonte on Saturday.
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