Robin van Persie of the Netherlands scores the equalising goal during the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Group B match between Spain and Netherlands at Arena Fonte Nova on June 13, 2014 in Salvador, Brazil. Photo : Getty Images
The Netherlands left World Cup holders Spain shaken to the core after they recorded a 5-1 thrashing in their opening game on Friday.
Andres Iniesta scored in extra-time to give Spain a 1-0 win and the trophy in South Africa four years ago, and it appeared the same result was on the cards in Salvador when Xabi Alonso powered home a first-half penalty, Goal.com writes.
But the Netherlands hit back in stunning fashion, with Robin van Persie and Arjen Robben in scintillating form.
Van Persie levelled matters with a fabulous header on the stroke of half-time, before Robben - who fatefully missed a one-on-one with Iker Casillas in the 2010 final - gave Louis van Gaal's side the lead eight minutes after the interval.
Things went from bad to worse for the world champions when Stefan de Vrij nodded home a third on 64 minutes, before Van Persie and Robben netted again to complete a remarkable rout in Group B's opening fixture and cast further doubt over Spain's chances of winning their fourth straight major tournament.
Spain boss Vicente del Bosque forewent the temptation to start with Cesc Fabregas in the false-nine role that was so successful during Euro 2012, instead choosing Diego Costa as an out-and-out striker.
Costa's impact on their system was evident, too, as Spain opted for a more direct approach than in previous tournaments.
It was the Netherlands who created the first opening, Robben's inch-perfect throughball finding Wesley Sneijder, only for the playmaker - making his 100th international appearance - to shoot straight at Casillas.
Costa then spurned a couple of half-openings as Spain began to find their feet and the Netherlands' defending became increasingly desperate.
It was a last-ditch tackle that led to the opener, De Vrij's sliding challenge bringing down the lively Costa - with Alonso coolly converting from the spot.
Van Gaal's side enjoyed a good spell thereafter, but Spain threatened again on the stroke of half-time as Jasper Cillessen kept out David Silva's cute dink following a stunning Iniesta pass.
That miss would become all the more important soon after, Van Persie looping a superb diving header over Casillas after being picked out by Daley Blind's sumptuous long diagonal.
Picking up where they left off, the Netherlands went ahead soon after the break.
Another searching Blind delivery found Robben, who controlled and turned beyond Gerard Pique - who could only deflect his effort beyond Casillas.
Spain suddenly had no answer to their opponents' new-found verve, Van Persie rattling the crossbar with a vicious strike.
The woodwork could not save Del Bosque's men soon after, though, as De Vrij atoned for his earlier misstep by heading Sneijder's deep free kick in off the post after Casillas thought he had been fouled by Van Persie.
The Spain captain was visibly rattled, and an uncharacteristic error from him 18 minutes from time enabled Van Persie to notch his second goal of the game as he stole the ball from his feet and poked home.
And the Netherlands were not finished there, as Casillas was forced to pick the ball out of the net again as the irresistible Robben took advantage of more lax defending to race clear and round off a scarcely believable result.
THE GAME, AS IT HAPPENED
FULL TIME! The Netherlands thrash reigning world champions Spain 5-1, dispelling any thoughts that La Roja have an easy passage through Group B! Goals from Van Persie, Robben and De Vrij wrapped up the three points for Van Gaal's men, despite Alonso's opener.
90` + 3` The Netherlands keep the ball for a sustained period, enjoying the praise and applause from the crowd. Spain look a little bit low on ideas, with Van Gaal's system managing to blunt the Spanish weapon of the diagonal ball.
90` + 1` Awful missed opportunity from Torres! The substitute receives the ball at the back post, after a wonderful move from La Roja and appears to only have to slide the loose ball home. A recovering tackle from Blind keeps the Spaniard heroically at bay.
90` We're nearly into stoppage time, with Spain's players wanting to hear the whistle as soon as possible. Lens breaking down the left, outpacing Ramos, before cutting a pass back into the path of Sneijder. The Galatasaray man tries to cap his 100th appearance with a goal, but slips.
88` Robben looks to weave his way into the penalty area, but Pique slides in to half-clear. Sneijder picks up the pieces, trying his luck, but is denied by Casillas once again. The experienced goalkeeper is doing his best to right his wrongs.
87` GREAT SAVE BY CASILLAS! The Spain goalkeeper makes two excellent stops to keep both Wijnaldum and Robben at bay! The latter cracks a glorious volley towards goal from 20 yards, catching it beautifully, but the Real Madrid shot-stopper dives across well to palm it away!
85` Five minutes left and the crowd in Salvador can't believe what is before their eyes. Spain are looking to settle back down and see some more of the ball, but the pressing of Van Gaal's men isn't allowing them to have any respite.
83` Good covering from Vlaar! Torres looks to break into the penalty area, after getting beyond Robben, but the Aston Villa defender gets across brilliantly to slide in and defuse the situation. Cillessen claims the resulting set piece after Pique wins the initial header.
82` Less than ten minutes to go and the reigning champions don't appear to have any chance of even getting a point from their opening game! They've been torn apart by the combined powers of Van Persie and Robben, but Del Bosque will still be keen for his players to end the game professionally.
80`Goal Arjen Robben
GOOOOOAL! ROBBEN SCORES! IT'S FIVE! Robben is set away by an early through ball, beating Pique and Ramos all ends up for pace! Casillas comes but gets nothing on it, allowing for the Bayern man to cut back onto his left foot and hammer a finish beyond two covering defenders on the line!
79` Substitution: Robin van Persie out, Jeremain Lens in
79` Van Persie is now withdrawn, with the experienced forward getting a great reception from the travelling Dutch fans. Lens replaces him, with the substitute presumably being used as fresh legs to continue to press Spain while they're in possession.
78` Substitution: David Silva out, Cesc Fàbregas in
77` Substitution: Stefan de Vrij out, Joël Veltman in
77` Van Gaal opts to play it safe, replacing De Vrij with Veltman, as the Feyenoord defender picked up a yellow card earlier in the game. It would really throw the cat amongst the pigeons should the Netherlands go down to ten men, a scenario that the Dutch coach is keen to avoid.
76` Spain earn a free-kick from 25 yards, with Ramos the man to take it. The central defender gets plenty of power behind his effort, but no direction, as Cillessen is happy to watch the ball zip past his right hand post.
74` The home crowd are really getting behind the Netherlands, as Spain look to have met more than their match here! Although, La Roja did lose their opening game of the last World Cup, but still came out as champions. Should Del Bosque's side finish second in the group, we could be in for some tasty knockout clashes!
72` Goal Robin van Persie
GOOOOOAL! IT'S FOUR FOR THE NETHERLANDS! WHAT A MISTAKE FROM CASILLAS! The veteran goalkeeper miscontrols, with his touch gifting possession to the lurking Dutch forward! Van Persie isn't one to turn down opportunities, stabbing the ball home despite being off-balance!
71` The Netherlands certainly aren't content to sit back after netting their third of the evening, with Van Gaal's men really looking to press and harry Spain into mistakes. Del Bosque only has one change remaining to alter the course of this contest.
69`Around 20 minutes left to play and Spain need to find two goals from somewhere! Van Persie goes close for the Netherlands once again, but Casillas is able to clear the goalscorer's effort away with his right leg, as the surface nearly got the better of him.
67` David Silva is caught offside! Pedro manages to force Cillessen into a smart save, getting down to the Barcelona man's close-range header well, spilling the ball to the lurking Silva. The Man City playmaker turns it home, but did so from an offside position!
Netherlands' forward Robin van Persie (L) celebrates with Netherlands' coach Louis van Gaal (R) after scoring during a Group B football match between Spain and the Netherlands at the Fonte Nova Arena in Salvador during the 2014 FIFA World Cup on June 13, 2014. Photo: AFP/Getty Images
66` Yellow Card Robin van Persie
66` Tempers are rising! Van Persie catches Pedro with a late foul, causing plenty of players to surround the referee and complain! There are certainly frustrations among La Roja's personnel, but as things stand, they're well on their way to losing their opening group game once again.
64` Assist Wesley Sneijder
64` Goal Stefan de Vrij
GOOOOOOOAL! DE VRIJ MAKES IT THREE FOR THE NETHERLANDS! It's a scrappy free-kick thrown into the box for the Dutch, which Casillas comes to claim but misses under pressure from Van Persie! At the back post, the young Feyenoord defender does just enough to divert home beyond the fallen goalkeeper!
63` Substitution: Xabi Alonso out, Pedro in
63`Substitution: Diego Costa out, Fernando Torres in
63` Diego Costa is replaced for the reigning champions, with Del Bosque seemingly unwilling to gamble that his forward will be able to keep his head. Fernando Torres takes to the field. Pedro is the other man to come on for Spain, while Wijnaldum enters for the Dutch.
62` Substitution: Jonathan De Guzmán out, Georginio Wijnaldum in
61` Azpilicueta tries to slide a through ball into the path of Silva down the right channel, but Cillessen reads the right-back's intentions and races out to collect. A few changes are on the cards, with activity on both benches.
60` VAN PERSIE HITS THE CROSSBAR! Robben sprays the ball to Janmaat, who clips a clever pass over Alba and into the path of Van Persie! The Dutchman attempts a half volley, crashing the ball into the underside of the crossbar with Casillas beaten! So close, but there were hints of offside!
59` We're almost at the hour mark, with Diego Costa and Martins Indi clashing again on the edge of the penalty area - but this time the referee deems that they did so fairly. David Silva tries to clip an early through ball to the Atletico forward, but the pass zips through to Cillessen.
57` Spain are looking slightly rattled, with the Netherlands upping their intensity and looking to hunt down possession in midfield. A second goal for the Dutch certainly wouldn't have been a common prediction, but Pique and Ramos haven't looked solid in defence for La Roja.
56` Well, Diego Costa might be a lucky man, given that the Atletico man did indeed look to headbutt the Netherlands defender. Del Bosque certainly won't want his key striker to pick up a suspension, but the Brazil-born forward is certainly a law unto himself.
54` Martins Indi goes down off the ball, claiming that Diego Costa leaned his head into the Feyenoord man. The Spanish forward is known for his fiery temper and tonight is no exception!
53` Goal Arjen Robben
GOOOOOOOOAL! ARJEN ROBBEN HAS GIVEN THE NETHERLANDS THE LEAD! He controls a lofted through ball, before shifting it onto his left foot and thumping a finish beyond the helpless Casillas! Slack defending from La Roja once again and the Dutch lead 2-1!
51` Robben bustles through one challenge, before looking to beat Sergio Ramos, but the central defender leans across and dispossesses the Dutchman - leading to some complaints from the Bayern winger. The Netherlands are starting to see a bit more of the ball, they're not out of this contest yet.
50` Ambitious effort from Iniesta, as the Barcelona midfielder takes aim with his right foot and zips a long-range effort at goal from 30 yards. Cillessen gets down to his right well to smother the ball, especially given the conditions.
48` Spain control the ball in the opening minutes, with the Netherlands' booked personnel doing well to ensure that they don't commit and niggling tackles. Oranje went down to ten men the last time these two outfit met competitively and Van Gaal certainly wouldn't want the same to occur this evening.
47` The weather has taken a turn for the worst in Salvador, with the rain pouring down onto the field of play. If the pitch holds up, it could aid both sides' passing play, given the extra zip rain can give.
46` Both teams still have plenty to play for, with both in with more than a realistic chance of grabbing three points. With many tipping these teams to progress into the knockout stages, the next 45 minutes could be important for deciding group position.
HALF TIME IN SALVADOR! The two teams return to their respective dressing rooms level, thanks to a beautiful Van Persie header which looped into the back of the net merely a minute shy of the interval. Xabi Alonso found the opener from the penalty spot, in what has been a very hard fought affair.
44` Assist Daley Blind
44` Goal Robin van Persie
WHAT A GOAL FROM ROBIN VAN PERSIE! Daley Blind picks out a fantastic early cross, curling a delivery in between the penalty spot and the 20 yard mark! Casillas comes halfway, but Robin van Persie gets there first, looping a gorgeous header over the Spanish goalkeeper and into the back of the net!
VINE: Van Persie makes it 1-1 http://t.co/J0qkY1EDW6
— FIFA World Cup 2014 (@FIFAWorldCupTM) June 13, 2014
43` WHAT A CHANCE FOR DAVID SILVA! Iniesta scythes the Dutch lines in two with one pass, playing the Man City playmaker straight through on goal. He attempts to scoop a cheeky finish over Cillessen from 10 yards, but the Ajax shot-stopper stands tall to palm the ball away for a corner!
42` Robin van Persie shows his quality once again, controlling the ball with his back to goal before skipping past two attempted Spanish challenges. He's looked quietly confident in possession, but is yet to have even a half-chance. No sustained pressure for the Dutch as of yet.
41` Yellow Card for Stefan de Vrij
40` Around five minutes until the break, with Spain really settling in as the dominant force now. Boos are subsiding for Diego Costa, as a slight lull in atmosphere comes into effect. De Vrij is shown a yellow card for a late challenge on David Silva.
38` Xavi is enjoying himself in a more advanced role, looking to press upfield and find a telling pass. Whilst at Barcelona this season, in a deeper role, the experienced midfielder wasn't close enough to the action to have a profound impact, but it appears Del Bosque has plenty of faith in the aging maestro to make things happen.
36` Robin van Persie is picked out deep behind the Spanish defensive line, but the linesman's flag is raised. He takes a shot regardless, but it wouldn't have counted anyway. The Manchester United forward looked to just stray beyond Alba.
35` De Jong tries his luck from 30 yards, but the Milan midfielder fires directly at Casillas, who pats the ball down and collects at the second attempt. The vastly experienced La Roja shot-stopper really hasn't had a great deal to do thus far.
34` Robben takes a long throw-in on the left hand side, but Martins Indi is beaten to the ambitious delivery. The Netherlands are by no means out of this game, but their system is based around the wing-backs having plenty of joy out wide. Sneijder has been a little bit quiet.
Spain's midfielder Xabi Alonso (L) shoots a penalty kick during a Group B football match between Spain and the Netherlands at the Fonte Nova Arena in Salvador during the 2014 FIFA World Cup on June 13, 2014. Photo: AFP/Getty Images
32` BRILLIANT CROSS FROM BLIND! The Ajax man whips in a devilish cross from deep on the left hand side, putting the ball straight in between the retreating Sergio Ramos and his goalkeeper! The Real Madrid man attempts a desperate clearance, but misses it, with nobody in navy blue at the back post to turn the ball home!
31` De Guzman races down the right hand side, before clipping back an intelligent ball from the byeline, but Blind is unable to meet the cross at the back post! Azpilicueta does just enough to shield the ball out of the danger zone before clearing.
30` Plenty wondered about whether Xavi could have a good campaign in Brazil this summer, but the Barcelona man is being able to poke through the odd clever ball and set Diego Costa on his merry way. Certainly not showing his 34 years of age as of yet.
Despite not registering a shot on target before that penalty finish, Spain have a lead inside the first half an hour! Netherlands continue to utilise their back three, but La Roja are starting to grow in confidence!
27` Penalty Goal Xabi Alonso
GOOOOOOOAL! SPAIN TAKE THE LEAD THROUGH XABI ALONSO! The defensive midfielder steps up confidently, before smashing the ball into the bottom left corner and beyond the despairing glove of Cillessen! The Ajax goalkeeper guessed the right way, but it was just too well placed! La Roja have a 1-0 advantage!
VINE: Alonso's Penalty to make it 1-0 http://t.co/rHV3EPA8ah
— FIFA World Cup 2014 (@FIFAWorldCupTM) June 13, 2014
26` PENALTY TO SPAIN! Diego Costa is slid in behind the Dutch lines, before the extended leg of De Vrij brings down the Spanish forward as he looked to cut inside his man! The referee doesn't hesitate, pointing straight to the spot!
25` Yellow Card to Jonathan De Guzmán
24` Diego Costa isn't having any luck against Ron Vlaar thus far, with the Dutch defender keeping a close eye on Spain's lone forward. A couple of little pushes off the ball from the Atletico man suggest that he just might be getting a tad frustrated.
23` Xavi whips in a corner for Spain, but Sergio Ramos is unable to get goalscoring contact on the delivery, despite being unmarked! The Real Madrid defender had an eye for goal during the last few weeks of the domestic season, but couldn't find the net there!
22` Spain continue to enjoy the lion's share of possession, but the Dutch formation is matching up rather well against La Roja. Blind and Janmaat are pulling their defensive weight, with Del Bosque's men struggling to penetrate given the three central defenders of the Dutch.
Netherlands fans look on before the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Group B match between Spain and Netherlands at Arena Fonte Nova on June 13, 2014 in Salvador, Brazil. Photo: Getty Images
20` Another important defensive piece of play from the Netherlands! David Silva is played over the top with yet another diagonal ball, but the Man City man can't manage to square a first-time cushioned cross into the path of the unmarked Diego Costa at the back post. He's forced back towards his own goal instead, as the Dutch defend staunchly.
19` Diego Costa is threaded down the right channel by David Silva, but attempts to score from a rather ambitious angle. The ball hurtles way off target, earning him a few more jeers. Meanwhile, Arjen Robben takes some time to do his boots back up, with Spain's players arguing that the Bayern Munich man is wasting time.
18` The Netherlands are continuing to sit with three central defenders, despite having only Diego Costa to worry about in attack. Janmaat and Blind look to stick tight to Silva and Iniesta, while keeping a watchful eye on the overlapping Azpilicueta and Alba.
16` A couple of niggly challenges from Nigel de Jong and Wesley Sneijder, but the referee keeps his cards in his pocket. The former, of course, notoriously made an awful tackle in the last World Cup final, but doesn't seem concerned about earning any Spanish adoration.
15` The first 15 minutes have only seen chances for Van Gaal's side, as Spain have dominated possession but so far haven't threatened. Vlaar and Diego Costa look to be interesting adversaries, with both unafraid to call their physical attributes into play.
Spain's defender Gerard Pique (L) vies with Netherlands' forward Arjen Robben (R) during a Group B football match between Spain and the Netherlands at the Fonte Nova Arena in Salvador during the 2014 FIFA World Cup on June 13, 2014. Photo: AFP/Getty Images
13` GREAT CHALLENGE FROM VLAAR! Diego Costa manages to get in behind the Dutch lines, before trying to earn himself a yard with a step-over. The Aston Villa captain doesn't buy his piece of skill, however, sliding in to clear the ball as the Atletico man threatens to pull the trigger from deep inside the penalty area!
12` Diego Costa and Azpilicueta exchange possession down the right hand side, but get no luck against Blind. Del Bosque's men are in no rush, with their patient passing philosophy shining through from the start. They're content to switch the ball from flank to flank.
10` GOOD EFFORT FROM INIESTA! The Barcelona man needs no invitation to shoot, cutting in from the left hand side after being picked out by Alonso. Iniesta sets himself, but can only hammer a powerful effort narrowly over the crossbar - but Cillessen had his angles covered.
9` Van Gaal's men might just regret missing that opportunity, as chances against Spain can be few and far between. Netherlands are giving as good as they're getting at the moment though, despite Sneijder missing out on an international goal on his 100th appearance for Oranje.
8` GOOD SAVE BY CASILLAS! Sneijder is threaded through on goal, haring away from the turned Spanish defence, before fluffing his lines! Casillas comes out to narrow the angle, but Sneijder can only fire his eventual shot directly at the Real Madrid man! Big chance, but a more important stop!
7` Robin van Persie is nearly put through on goal by an early long ball, but Pique does just enough to steer the pass back to Casillas. That's the Real Madrid man's first touch of the game and he won't mind if his future jobs are as simple as that one.
6` When Oranje are on the ball, Janmaat and Blind are trying to stretch the play and ensure that plenty of width is achieved. In doing so, it might be that little bit easier to find the angle to release Sneijder, who is the major hub of Van Gaal's side.
5` A few boos and jeers for Diego Costa in the first five minutes, with the home crowd beginning to notice when the lone Spanish forward gets hold of the ball. Netherlands are happy to sit back and absorb some light La Roja probing.
4` A slow start to proceedings, with Spain starting to take control of possession. Alonso looks for an early lofted ball, clipped through into the path of Diego Costa, but the Brazil-born forward can't bring it under control. Cillessen collects easily.
Netherlands fans look on before the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Group B match between Spain and Netherlands at Arena Fonte Nova on June 13, 2014 in Salvador, Brazil. Photo: Getty Images
2` Important challenge from Busquets! The Barcelona man steps in to dispossess Sneijder, as the Dutch maestro looks to glide in between the lines and provide Van Persie with an early sight on goal.
1` We are underway in the first half! The reigning champions will want to start this game as well as they finished the last, while last World Cup's beaten finalists will be hoping for the polar opposite! What a game we should have on our hands!
The last time these two met in competitive action, of course, was the 2010 World Cup final in South Africa. It took Andres Iniesta until the 116th minute to find the winner during that clash, but neither outfit have the luxury of extra-time this evening. European sides aren't too widely backed to lift the trophy this time around, given South American dominance in tournaments on their own continent, but a good showing from Spain and the Netherlands tonight could begin to change some minds.
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