Spain had held dominance over world football for years. They won Euro 2008 in emphatic style. They crushed it at World Cup 2010. They massacred all at Euro 2012. Heading into the World Cup in 2014, they were red hot favourites. But what happened on June 13th, 2014, in the Fonte Nova stadium in Salvador, shocked the football world. A defeat at a national tournament is not unheard of for La Roja, they won the World Cup in 2010 having lost to Switzerland in their first game. This game against the Dutch was different. The Netherlands tore Spain to shreds, not just beating them, but depriving them of all confidence. And all this after Spain took the lead…
The warning signs were there early on. Arjen Robben’s electric speed bursting past the stationary Spanish defence to unleash a powerful shot on goal. If only he had looked up, he may have found a way to score. He fired straight into the body of Iker Casillas and the defence saw it safely away.
The match was an end to end affair, with Spain drawing first blood. The ball was played between the defenders to Diego Costa, who took the ball in his stride inside the penalty box. He quickly switched to his right foot, looking to cut inside, only to find his feet swept from under him by the sliding Stefan de Vrij. Costa certainly made the most of the challenge, but there was definitive contact from the Dutchman. Xabi Alonso stepped up and coolly slotted the penalty to his left. Dutch keeper Jasper Cillessen dived the right way, but Alonso hit the penalty so hard that the keeper didn’t stand a chance of saving it.
The game was only half an hour old, but with Spain taking the lead, the result was beginning to look familiar. The Dutch stayed focused though, De Jong testing Casillas from distance, only for Spain to retaliate minutes later, David Silva chipping Cillessen , seeing the keeper tip it just wide.
With only a minute to go until half time, Robin Van Persie scored arguably the goal of the tournament. Daley Blind hit a high ball into the box from the halfway line. Van Persie broke free of his marker, watched the ball the whole way, and instead of taking the ball down and shooting, flung his whole body at the ball, twisting his head to send it goal bound. Van Persie had seen Casillas darting off his line, which evidently caused him to attempt the header from the edge of the penalty box. It was a truly remarkable goal, and perhaps it was the unusual, shocking nature of it which caused the capitulation of Spain.
Ten minutes into the second half and the Dutch had turned the game on its head. Another long diagonal ball from Daley Blind fell into the penalty box. This time it was Robben who controlled the pass, his tricky feet seeing Pique and Sergio Ramos completely helpless. With both centre backs now out of position, Robben only had the task of beating Casillas, and he did not disappoint, gliding the ball into the net to make it 2-1 to Holland.
The Dutch certainly did not sit back and defend. Van Persie unleashed a blistering shot which hit the bar, and then, on 65 minutes, Stefan de Vrij made up for conceding a penalty. He latched on to a free kick, which was very nearly nodded in by Van Persie, and threw himself at it. Such was his determination to lose his marker, Cesar Azpilicueta, that he slammed his body into the goalpost in the process of scoring. The pain was worthwhile though, as he put Holland 3-1 up. After Spain’s early dominance, the Dutch were really stamping their authority on the game.
One of the most crucial moments of the match was David Silva’s offside goal. Had it been allowed to stand, there may have been hope for a Spanish comeback. A header from Pedro was saved by Cillessen, but pushed aside for Silva to tap in. Silva had been a yard offside, however, and was rightly flagged offside. It was a let off for the Dutch, and a stark warning that the Spanish were down, but not out.
Spain were pushing harder and harder in the hot sun to get a goal back, and then, with twenty minutes to go, disaster struck, at the expense of Casillas. A simple Sergio Ramos back pass saw Casillas take a horribly heavy touch, pushing the ball out of his reach, turning what should have been an easy touch into a footrace between himself and Robin Van
Persie. Van Persie won, tackling the ‘keeper and then hitting the loose ball into the shockingly empty net. Spain’s day had gone from bad to worse. You can move on from a 3-1 defeat. 4-1 was a disaster.
Spain kept plugging away, but with ten minutes to go, Robben finished off the route in emphatic style. Wesley Sneijder played a through ball to Arjen Robben, Robben outpacing Ramos over the entirety of the Spanish half, Casillas over committing, forcing Robben to cut back. Ramos tracking back onto the line, Azpilicueta also making it back to the goal line. Robben blasted it at an awkward height, making it near impossible for the covering defenders to stop it. 5-1. Embarrassing, utterly embarrassing. The Netherlands, however, were spectacular.
If it weren’t for an outstanding save by Casillas in the dying minutes of the game almost made it 6-1. First, Wijnaldum stung the goalkeepers gloves, only for Robben to test Casillas from distance. Casillas was certainly not at his best against Holland that day, however, a poorer shot stopper may have seen the Dutch hit double figures that day. Fernando Torres had the ball at his feet in the last play of the game, but even at 5-1 up, the Dutch didn’t give him even one second to compose himself, substitute Joel Veltman sliding in the knick the ball away.
The game finished 5-1 and the footballing world was shaken. Over the past six years, a Spain defeat was shocking, but nothing of this magnitude had happened to them in years. They played well in spells, but their defence simply couldn’t handle the pace of Arjen Robben. The result evidently hurt Spain’s morale, they lost their next game to Chile and found themselves the first team to be eliminated from the World Cup, before even playing their final game against Australia. The Dutch had different fortunes that tournament, making it all the way to the semi finals, before losing on penalties to Argentina. The Dutch received a lot of harsh criticism after their disappointing performance in the final against Spain in World Cup 2010. Perhaps this game was their first chance in four years to really exorcise their demons from that night in Johannesburg.
Tomorrow’s game: June 14th. Uruguay v Costa Rica. 2014.