European power-house the Netherlands escaped creating shocking headlines in Brazil as they labored to beat Australia in an unconvincing 3-2 win. Australia, who already proved against Chile that they do not fear the task at hand, brought the match to the Dutch in another fantastic display but it would not be enough at the end of the day.
The result see’s Australia eliminated from the tournament with one match remaining, while the Netherlands booked passage to the round of 16 who are looking to avoid a match up against Brazil. Here is our review.
Netherlands (5-3-2): Jasper Cillessen; Daryl Janmaat, Stefan de Vrij, Ron Vlaar, Bruno Martins Indi, Daley Blind; Nigel de Jong, Jonathan de Guzman; Wesley Sneijder; Robin van Persie, Arjen Robben
Australia (4-3-3): Mathew Ryan; Jason Davidson, Matthew Spiranovic, Alex Wilkinson, Ryan McGowan; Mile Jedinak, Matt McKay; Tommy Oar, Mark Bresciano, Mathew Leckie; Tim Cahill
The opening exchanges in Porto Alegre proved, yet again, that Australia never shy away from taking the match to their more prestigious opponents. In the first ten minutes, the Socceroos had the lions share of the position, with the Netherlands only managing to foray into the final third once through Robben, but his touch let him down in the end.
Whether it was a mentality that was too relaxed or sheer laziness, the Netherlands began the match with some of the sloppiest play of the entire tournament up to that point. Misplaced passes, second to all the 50/50 challenges and a complete lack of work ethic. It would almost cost them in the 15th minute when Leckie broke down into space on the right and squared it across to Bresciano on the top of the box, but his effort was deflected by De Vrij for a corner, which amounted to nothing
Robin van Persie would register the first Dutch effort on frame in the 18th minute when he flicked on from Robben’s curling free-kick, but it went straight into the arms of Ryan. The Dutch would finally take the lead in the 19th minute when a bouncing ball got the best of Wilkinson, went over his head, and set Robben off through on goal – no one would catch him as he would calmly slot past Ryan for his third of the tournament. But an instant reply from Australia national team legend Tim Cahill saw him volley home from inside 18 yards after a beautiful ball from McGowan – his strike surely rivals Van Persie’s against Spain, and the score stood at 1-1 after 22 minutes.
It must be said, that Robben and Van Persie were far more isolated today, with Australia defending well and in numbers in central areas. Against Spain, the pair of them had far more space centrally and in behind, as well as more support from Blind than they were getting in the first half here. Bresciano nearly made it 2-1 Australia in the 30th minute, but his effort blazed just over the bar.
The half would end 1-1, but an unfortunate injury to center-back Bruno Martins Indi by way of Tim Cahill forced a tactical change from Louis van Gaal. Cahill second booking now see’s him se tto miss Australia’s final group stage match, which means this match will most likely be his last appearance in an Australian shirt. Young prodigy Memphis Depay was introduced in the 45th minute to replace Martins Indi, and the Dutch then reverted back to a 4-3-3 for the second half. Martins Indi’s injury could well be serious as well, so that will give the Netherlands something to think about going forward.
The second half began with Mathew Leckie nearly breaking through on goal to give Australia a shock 2-1 lead after the break, but the play was whistled back for off-sides. At the other end, Van Persie picked up his second yellow in two matches, which means he is unavailable against Chile in the final group stage match.
An impressive free-flowing move by the Netherlands showed renewed intent on their part. Depay initiated the move after beating two for pace, who then laid off for Blind who then laid off for Sneijder who’s effort nearly caught Ryan at the near post but it was parried away for a corner – much better from them. A change after the corner saw Bresciano removed for Mark Bozanic ho as better pace and is more direct and technical than the veteran, and it would pay immediate dividends. Bozanic got free in the box after doing well to create space and his cross was hand-balled in the box – Mile Jedinak sent Cillessen the wrong way and it was 2-1 Australia. They were better than the Dutch on the day in truth, and the lead was warranted.
Their lead however, would not last for long. Three minutes later, Van Persie beat Ryan with a blistering top shelf effort after he was put through in behind the Australian defense by Depay after they were sloppy to hold their line. Australia, the better of the two on the day, still ran the risk of taking nothing away from this match.
A massive moment of misfortune for Australia saw them nearly go up 3-2 at one end when Mathew Leckie opted to try to chest a low cross in rather than use his head, but an immediate break down the pitch saw youngster Memphis Depay score his first goal for the Netherlands when his dipping and swerving effort got the better of Ryan. The Dutch were up 3-2 now, their first lead of the match, and they smelled blood.
The Dutch kept turning the screw, but could not find the killer fourth goal, with Australia still venturing forward when the opportunity presented itself. The match would end 3-2, but absolute full credit given to Australia, who outplayed the Netherlands for large parts of the match. Their tournament would be over, but they offered so much more than what was expected. Dutch creativity would win the day, but the performance was a telling one – Dutch over confidence nearly got the best of them.
Man of the Match
Memphis Depay – It was hard goings for the Netherlands in the first half. Robben and Van Persie were quite isolated going forward, with Sneijder and Blind occupied in midfield and at the back with an aggressive Australian side unafraid to press forward. The unfortunate removal of Martins Indi saw Depay come in and bring added pace, quality on the ball and off the ball movement that caused Australia massive headaches. He would end up scoring his first goal for the Netherlands plus added an assist on Van Persie’s strike. If the Dutch shift to a 4-3-3 again, expect him to get the call.
Player ratings for the Netherlands
Cillessen – 6.0: Made a good save or two and could not do anything about both goals allowed, but he needs to organize the defense far better than todays performance.
Janmaat – 6.0: Was under threat for much of the match and is the one who gave the penalty away. He dropped off from his performance against Spain, but should improve.
de Vrij – 6.0: Positionally was quite poor today, and performances like this can and will happen given his international inexperience in big matches, but also should improve.
Vlaar – 6.5: Was slightly better than the rest of his defensive partners but like the rest, positionally he struggled. They all run the risk being found out by Chile.
Martins Indi – 6.0: He worked hard but he was far less effective today than against Spain. An unfortunate injury cut short his match, one that looks potentially serious.
Blind – 6.5: Was less effective today, but he still offered something forward and was good both on the ball and with his distribution.
de Jong – 7.5: Was very, very good in the middle. In his usual style, he was unafraid to go hard in the tackle and make it tough for the Australians in the middle.
de Guzman – 5.0: Yet again, he was sub par and really failed to impress. Was more of a liability than an asset, and his place in the XI surely must be under scrutiny.
Sneijder – 7.0: He was still influential, but more so in the second half than in the first, where he was more or less invisible.
Robben – 7.0: Got himself a very good goal yet again, his third of the tournament, but was far less influential and disappeared quite a few times – That’s the risk/reward with him.
van Persie – 7.0: He was incredibly isolated in the first half, but came good in the second. Got himself another goal (3rd of the tournament) but didn’t look his normal self overall.
Depay – 8.0: Brilliant once coming on – brought added pace, creativity and ability on and off the ball that the Dutch desperately needed. A goal and an assist to add to his performance was pleasing from him as well.
Wijnaldum – 5.0: Again preferred off the bench over Clasie and yet again did nothing once introduced. Surely Clasie will get a look off the bench against Chile.
Lens – 5.0: Really had no time at all to do much of anything, unlike against Spain when he came on and was allowed to have a longer go at the opposition.
Player ratings for Australia
Ryan – 5.5: He was doing pretty okay until he failed to save Depay’s effort from distance despite getting both paws to the shot. It ended up being the winner, and you have to ask if Mitchell Langerak should be preferred.
Davidson – 6.5: Started very well to shut his flank down and did not regress too much throughout the match, but slipped late on as the match progressed.
Spiranovic – 7.0: Rated this high for how well he played for most of the match, really keeping RvP and Robben quiet for the large majority of the match.
Wilkinson – 6.5: Did well for much of the match, but was a little more exposed in the final 30minutes than Spiranovic was. Still, he was decent.
McGowan – 6.5: Got himself a brilliant assist on Cahill’s cracking goal, but he struggled as the match progressed when the Dutch brought on more pace.
McKay – 6.5: Did well to partner Jedinak in midfield to stifle Dutch efforts in the middle of the park, but became a liability in the second half when his lack of pace was exploited.
Jedinak – 7.5: Had a very good performance in the midfield. Got himself a goal and was responsible for 50% of the success of shutting down Sneijder in the first half.
Oar – 7.0: Did very well to keep Janmaat rooted to the defensive third of the pitch. Did well to get into the final third as well and provide options – he worked had and well all match.
Bresciano – 6.5: Worked hard in all areas of the pitch and showed a bit of creativity, but fluffed his chance in the first half where he should have put Australia 2-1 up.
Leckie - 7.0: Did a fantastic job keeping Blind pinned in the defensive third far more than he would have liked and created a ton of space for other – should have had an assist on Bresciano’s missed effort.
Cahill – 7.0: Got himself a fantastic goal, goal of the tournament up till this point. Was, as always, a nuisance to deal with in the final third but a yellow card and an increased physical involvement saw him removed early.
Bozanic – 7.0: Was lively from start to finish once he came on. Responsible for winning Australia’s penalty, and was very good at being direct with taking players on, which was something Australia lacked.
Halloran – 5.5: Came on but didn’t offer too much by way of attacking play. Needed more energy from him to put the Dutch off in other areas of the pitch.
Taggart – 5.5: More or less the exact same can be said of him as was for Halloran, but at the point of his introduction, was hard for him to do more than work hard, which he didn’t.