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World Cup 2014

Spain 1 Netherlands 5: Highlights, key battles and what the result means

Published on Jun 14, 2014 6:08 AM
Arjen Robben of the Netherlands is hugged by his teammates after he scored a goal against Spain during their 2014 World Cup Group B soccer match at the Fonte Nova arena in Salvador on June 13, 2014. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

Never has a defending World Cup champion been humiliated in the manner that Spain were in Salvador. A 5-1 thrashing by the Netherlands sent Vicente del Bosque's all-conquering Spain to their heaviest World Cup defeat in 61 years. For the Dutch, the result was sweet revenge for losing to Spain in the 2010 final.


- Diego Costa was a surprise starter for Spain, given his race to be fit. But the Brazil-born striker got no love from the hosts as his every touch was greeted with boos. He did earn the cheers of the Spanish fans, however, when he earned Spain a penalty after he made the most of a Stefan de Vrij challenge.

- Singapore has a Flying Dutchman, well so do the Netherlands. Robin van Persie scored what could be a candidate for goal of the tournament with a flying header that looped into goal. He then got a second when he robbed Iker Casillas and slotted into an empty net.

- Arjen Robben turned in a vintage performance and helped himself to two goals. His piercing runs and movement off the ball gave the Spaniards constant problems. Both goals came via the middle, with Robben's pace a weapon the champions just had no answer to.

- Iker Casillas, distinguished captain for Spain, European Championship and World Cup winning-captain, now a chump. It is sad to see a great player out of his league in his latter years and Casillas is a prime example. He has been far from his best for his club Real Madrid and was relegated to a bench warmer. It is a mystery why he is still a starter for Spain. The 33-year-old was solely at fault for at least two of the five goals conceded and is clearly past his prime.

Key battles

Xavi-Andres Iniesta v Nigel de Jong-Jonathan de Guzman:

Spain's pass masters were again the brains of the Spanish team in a dominant first half performance. Overall, Spain outpassed the Dutch 560-317. But it mattered little in the final outcome. Nigel de Jong and Jonathan de Guzman were crucial in the second half as they closed in tighter on the Spanish pair, giving them less time and space to make those defence-splitting passes they are so deadly with.

Arjen Robben v Sergio Ramos:

In fairness, it wasn't just Ramos who had a torrid time against Robben. It was the entire Spanish defence. But with Robben playing wide right in the second half, it was mainly Ramos who had to deal with the fleet-footed winger and he just had no answer to Robben's twist and turns.

Man of the Match

Rocking Robben. Who else. He may be 30 this year, but is still one of the world's most feared wingers. You never know which way he is going to go when on the ball, when he might stop, change pace, accelerate. When on song, he is almost unplayable. His second goal, and the Dutch's fifth, aptly summed up his performance today, with Casillas and Ramos left on their backsides as he ran the Spanish defence ragged.

What the result means

Spain have been here before. Remember, they lost their opening Euro 2012 match and still went on to lift the title. But a 1-5 thrashing? A captain with no form and no confidence? These are things del Bosque has not had to deal with till now. Does he drop Casillas? Was it the right call in playing a clearly half-fit Costa? Chile are next and they are definitely no push-overs. He needs to find answers fast or the campaign could quickly end up in disaster. As for the Dutch, Louis van Gaal could not have asked for a better start. The win could mean he gets to avoid hosts Brazil in the second round, which means the Netherlands could go far.