Netherlands looked to follow up their rout of Spain with, what many expected to be, a comfortable victory over the Australians.
But the Socceroos had a different idea.
Built around team ethic, work-rate and Australian tenacity the green and gold's hassled and harried the Dutch to great effect. The opening exchanges were an even affair. Netherlands were not playing well, with a lack of accuracy when passing. Wesley Sneijder was the main culprit.
The Australian's though showed good endeavor and intent early on. Although they had no luck in breaking the deadlock, they were on top.
It could have been a morale breaking moment when Arjen Robben turned brilliantly on the half-way-line. Raced clear of the Australian midfield and elected to go himself when in a two on one situation. He did so productively and slid the ball in to the far corner to score a wonderful solo effort and put the Dutch 1 0 up after twenty minutes.
However Tim Cahill, a goal scoring midfielder throughout his career, had other plans. A speculative long ball found Cahill on the left hand side of the Dutch box. Cahill watched the ball over his shoulder and volleyed quite brilliantly with his left foot to put Australia back on level terms just a minute later. A spectacular goal, Ala Marco Van Basten in the 1988 Euro Championships.
That was Tim Cahill's fifth world cup goal, to go with one assist which gives him more goals at world cups than Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and Wayne Rooney. Quite a record.
The game was lit up with these two brilliant solo efforts.
Holland continued to look dangerous despite their poor passing game. Ron Vlaar headed wide at a corner. A warning message for Australia.
Two huge chances then fell to Australia. On thirty minutes Bresciano fired over from inside the Dutch area. Then on thirty-two minutes a free kick from a central position was not dealt with by the Netherlands but the following chance was scooped easily into the keeper's gloves. Australia should have been ahead at half time.
Bruno Martins was stretchered off injured just before half time. Replaced by Memphis Depay. This meant a tactical switch from 5-3-2 to 4-3-3. A more attacking style which suits the Dutch and plays to their strengths.
At half time Australia were not only in the game but very much on top. Their ability to get the ball in the box was evident. Holland's wing-back's/full-back's may well be good going forward but defensively they were not stopping crosses getting in to the box. Are the Dutch vulnerable defensively? Australia played well but they are the lowest ranked side in the tournament and should not have caused the Dutch any problems.
Netherlands passing was poor. Which did not allow them to find any rhythm. Star striker, Van Persie was isolated up front with no one able to support him. However Arjen Robben was a huge positive. He was running the show. When ever he got the ball, the Australian's were wary. And rightly so. He scored a brilliant goal and continues to shine at the World cup.
In the early period of the second half, it was clear that known disciplinarian Louis Van Gaal had, had stern words with the Dutch. They came out and were showing more intent and tempo in their play. Their passing was much more accurate.
However on the fifty-second minute a penalty was awarded to Australia for a hand ball in the area. It was harsh. The defender had his arms up which leaves the decision in the referee's hands. But the player was two yards away from the Australian when the ball hit his hand. A tough one to take. Mile Jedinak converted though to put Australia 2 1 up. Could a huge upset be on the cards?
Netherlands though hit straight back. Robin Van Persie was not isolated any more. He was fed the ball inside the Australian box and finished convincingly to equalize for the Dutch. 2 2 after fifty-seven minutes.
With Australia still very much in the game. Heart brake ensued. Substitute Memphis Depay struck a speculative shot from outside the area. Only for a howler from Australian goalkeeper, Mathew Ryan, which allowed the ball to sneak in to the far corner and put the Dutch 3 2 in front.
From then on in, it was all Holland and there was only ever going to be one winner. The final score ended 3 2.
Australia were hugely unlucky. Led by Tim Cahill they pushed the Dutch all the way and deserved a point at least but it was not to be. The Netherlands however played badly but won.
The sign of a great team.
Defensively vulnerable and frail, especially when crosses are put in their box. That could be their achilles heel. However with the prolific Arjen Robben and Robin Van Persie firing, they can outscore anyone. A real threat to the rest of the world. And a team to watch.
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