Australia 2-3 Netherlands
Wednesday 18th June 2014
Australia goals: Cahill, Jedinak (pen)
Netherlands goals: Robben, Van Persie, Depay
After toppling reigning champions Spain in emphatic style on Day 2 of the 2014 World Cup, it was time for Louis Van Gaal and his side to build on the tie not just of the round but possibly of the tournament and double the Dutch point tally in what on paper looked an easy game against Australia. Netherlands who looked very very impressive in their opening Group B game against current World Cup holders Spain named the same side which got their campaign off to such a flying start whilst Australia looked to build on a resolute display shown against Chile in their opening Group B match. Prior to the game Australia manager Postecoglou promised that his Australian side would attack throughout from beginning to end and they did just that, taking many by surprise.
Yet as always in football, not quite what’s deserved occurs and it was Netherlands who drew first blood in the match and took the lead against the run of play. A moment of magic from Arjen Robben, whose performance against Spain had many people singing his praises, racing down the pitch and placing his angled shot into the bottom corner put Van Gaal’s men one nil up and firmly in the driving seat for automatic qualification. However a 1-0 deficit was unfair to Australia and slightly flattered the Netherlands and eventually, Australia got their sweet revenge with one of the sweetest goals you’ll see in the tournament.
The ever reliable Tim Cahill in what many speculated may be his last World Cup for the Socceroos, connected onto a ball into the box and his volleyed effort beat Cillessen in the Dutch goal, clashing off the crossbar with some force and rebounding into the net. Followed by his memorable trademark boxing/corner routine celebration, it goes without saying that Cahill’s goal was a-la Van Basten and surely to be one of the stand-out goals of 2014 tournament.
Australia continued to press and proved that Postecoglou was true to his words with Mark Bresciano and Matthew Spiranovic coming close to take the lead in the latter stages of the first half. As the half-time whistle went, the game was poised nicely at 1-1 with Australia proving why they fully deserve their place in the tournament and showing people they’re not just the whipping boys of Group C, and in fact the outsiders if you like, for qualifying into the subsequent Round of 16. Netherlands on the other hand will look back at their first half performance and probably accept they weren’t at their best – however that was all to change.
At first however it did look as if the second half took off where the first half had finished. Surging attacks from the Australians and speculative efforts at goal from in and around the box eventually led to Australia’s second of the game, after hot prospect Daley Blind of the Netherlands was judged to have handled the ball in the area. But after such a dubious decision, you’ve still got to score the penalty kick for it to count as any advantage. However predictably, Jedinak of Crystal Palace made no mistake of dispatching the set piece and put the Socceroos 2-1 up with just over half an hour remaining on the clock. Then in what seemed as if the Dutch and Van Gaal were going to be on the receiving end of another shock scoreline from Group B, the captain Robin Van Persie struck.
In much less spectacular fashion in comparison to the wonderful header scored against Spain just under a week ago now, Van Persie fired into the roof of the net no more than ten minutes after Jedinak’s penalty kick and put the Netherlands back the tie. As Netherlands continued to push for a winning goal, Australia may certainly have tired throughout the game but in regard to effort and willingness to chase the game, they certainly weren’t going to give up lightly. As for Netherlands, Van Gaal brought on hot prospect Memphis Depay of PSV Eindhoven to use his pace and creativity to change the game. And so he did. Twenty two minutes after the restart, Depay struck and put the Netherlands back in the lead after Australia’s short-lived advantage.
The 20 year old’s curling shot beat the Australia keeper and put the Dutch back in the driving seat with just over twenty minutes remaining on the clock. Yet as the Australian players continued to attack, the major talking points from the latter stages of the game were the yellow cards awarded to both Tim Cahill and Robin Van Persie meaning both will miss their respective final Group B matches. The yellow however could spell the end for Tim Cahill’s international playing career with qualification now impossible for this years Round of 16 and with his age, he may not even be considered for 2018. The game which added another 5 goals to the fast-growing goal tally of the tournament ended in the Netherlands favour but both managers will be happy with what they seen on the pitch, with plenty of positives for both sides.
Spain 0-2 Chile
Wednesday 18th June 2014
Chile goals: Vargas, Aranguiz
You know the old saying, ‘the rain in Spain, falls mainly…’ but in the context of this summers 2014 World Cup, we can safely say ‘the reign of Spain falls mainly in Brazil’, After a disappointing opening group game performance to Louis Van Gaal’s Holland side, Spain as one of the pre-tournament favourites looked to try and rectify their bad performance against the Dutch and replicate some of the form which reigned supreme, dominating international football for the best part of six years between 2007-2013 – known as tikitaka (it’s only fair we gave tikitaka a mention with it being the inspiration for our blog). But the slow death of the once attractive style of football was clear for the eye to see this summer in Brazil as Spain slumped to another defeat.
By no means are Chile a side which can be taken for granted and although I’m sure Spain would’ve known and realised this with several Chileans applying their trade in La Liga BBVA, you’d have expected the Spain class of 2008/2010/2012 to simply outclass the likes of Vidal, Sanchez and Bravo. However if anything, it was completely the other way round as Spain brought in both Javi Martinez and Pedro to try and secure an imperative three points. Chile on the other hand stuck with the reliable players who performed so well against Australia in the opening game and hoped they’d have everything it takes to cause an upset. And so they did!
A bright start to the game by Chile was followed up by a goal within no time. Dubbed as the Spain of South America, FC Barcelona striker Alexis Sanchez contributed to the opening goal game in the early stages of the first half after he linked up well with Aranguiz who then played in Eduardo Vargas for his second of the tournament. Spain responded with a few half-chances of their own but nothing as scintillating as the attacks produced by the Chileans who were dominant throughout. Xabi Alonso fired a shot over for Spain was Diego Costa hit his attempt wide as Spain continued to respond positively to going a goal down, but they couldn’t find the all important equaliser as the first half developed. And their failed attempts at scoring was soon punished by the Chilean front three.
A free-kick from Alexis Sanchez once again tested an out of form Iker Casillas and his fumbling of the ball set up Aranguiz to score his first goal in the tournament, putting Chile 2-0 heading into the second half. Spain eventually began to find their rhythm in the second half as Andres Iniesta began to dictate play from the Spanish midfield. But resolute Chilean defending especially from makeshift centre back come central midfielder Gary Medel restricted Spain from getting back into the tie with Diego Costa and David Silva struggling against both Medel and Mena whilst Isla produced several match-winning tackles to dispossess the Spanish attacks. Isla went close for Chile to put them 3-0 up but his missed attempt mean Spain still had a slight chance of turning things round.
Fernando Torres and Santi Cazorla both joined the action as Spain looked even for a consolation goal to at least have something to report about but as the game reached its dying embers, it was slowly becoming clear that we were witnessing the end of a golden era. The death of tiki taka some would say. Cazorla came close from a free-kick as the game reached a conclusion whilst keeper Bravo was also called into action from an Andres Iniesta attempt at goal. But eventually, Chile held out to a historic 2-0 win over the Spanish, whose luck had simply ran out at long last. As for Chile, they join the Netherlands as the qualifiers from Group B, where they’ll face one of Mexico, Brazil or Croatia.
Croatia 4-0 Cameroon
Wednesday 18th June 2014
Croatia goals: Olic, Perisic, Mandzukic x2
In a game which draws a line under the second round of group fixtures for Group A, Croatia would have hoped to be making the headlines for all the right reasons rather than reports suggesting naked swimming and confrontations with pesky paparazzi in nearby greenery. As for Cameroon, their opening defeat to Mexico could have been a lot worse than the 1-0 scoreline recorded after video footage has shown Mexico should have had not just one goal allowed, but both. Croatia named a strong side as they did in the opening group fixture to Brazil, with the only exception of the inclusion this time of Mario Mandzukic of Bayern Munchen.
His addition to the side must inevitably have been a massive bonus for Kovacs’ side who lacked that killer finishing prowess against Brazil and his impact to the national side became more apparent as the game went on. And despite all the headlines and newspaper articles surrounding Mandzukic and how he’ll fire Croatia to the Round of 16, it was fellow countryman and strike partner Ivica Olic of VFL Wolfsburg currently, who got the opening goal of the game after eleven minutes.
Ivan Perisic who many tipped as their man of the match throughout the game then doubled Croatia’s 1-0 lead with a marvellous solo effort which included a darting run from the left wing and hammering straight past the Cameroon keeper into the bottom right hand corner of the net. 2-0 Croatia. The game’s proceedings were then dominated by a selfish moment of madness by former Arsenal midfielder Alex Song. His off the ball confrontation with Bayern Munich striker Mandzukic was noticed by the referee and ultimately condemned Cameroon to 10 men after being shown the red card.
The game then changed completely as Croatia went from being reasonably comfortable against a side that didn’t really threaten Pletikosa in the Croatia goal at all, to a team completely on top. And it wasn’t long before Cameroon completely capitulated with a certain Mr.Mandzukic striking twice to double Croatia’s lead in the second half and putting Croatia 3-0, and then 4-0 up. Cameroon substitute Webo did go close in the latter stages only to be denied by Pletikosa but ultimately, Croatia well and truly deserved the victory (even before the Cameroon sending off), meaning that next weeks game between Mexico and Croatia could ultimately decide whose world cup journey ends at the group stages, and whose stint in the competition may just only be beginning.