Holland demolish Spain 5-1
Spain humiliated as Holland turn on the style
(Xabi Alonso 27-pen)
(Robin van Persie 44, 72, Arjen Robben 53, 80, Stefan de Vrij 64)
Spain are in trouble. Deep, deep trouble.
Annihilated by Holland in their opening Group B game in Salvador this morning (Singapore time), this will be the second World Cup in a row in which they must beat Chile to survive.
The only difference between this campaign and the success of 2010 is that last time, they were able to get their groove back against Honduras first.
This summer, there is no let-up.
Demoralised and humiliated, they play one of the dark horses of the tournament next Wednesday and, if they lose, they could be out of World Cup, sent packing within six days of the opening ceremony.
Their goal difference, mercilessly ravaged by the Dutch, means that even a draw might not be enough.
There had been fears of a decline, the inevitable onset of age taking its toll on a truly golden generation of players.
But nobody saw this coming.
Two minutes before half-time, Spain were leading through a Xabi Alonso penalty and spurned the chance to double the advantage when David Silva's close-range shot was superbly saved by Jasper Cillessen.
It all looked so straightforward. And then it all went horribly wrong.
Daley Blind trotted up the left flank, looked up and lofted a ball into the box that seemed to defy gravity.
Robin van Persie watched, waited and then launched a diving header almost from the edge of the box.
Iker Casillas had no chance. He must have thought that was as bad as his night could get. He didn't know the half of it.
Eight minutes into the second half, Arjen Robben put the Dutch into the lead, making space with a wonderful touch and then rifling home.
A third arrived 11 minutes afterwards, aided and abetted by a foul from Robin van Persie on Casillas that went unnoticed, Stefan de Vrij nodding in as the Spanish goalkeeper crumpled to earth.
He wasn't the only thing that crumpled. The third goal knocked all the fight out of the champions and the Dutch knew it.
They revelled in it. They were hungry for vengeance and there was no let-up in their pursuit of retribution.
Casillas, a broken man, made a mess of a backpass and allowed van Persie to make it four in the 72nd minute.
Robben raced onto a long ball out of the Dutch defence, danced around the Real Madrid legend and smashed in No. 5 eight minutes later.
And more could have followed.
There was no silver lining for the Spanish.
Even the victory in Diego Costa's fight for fitness was a hollow one.
The Brazilian fans in the stadium, furious that he could turn his back on their nation and defect to Spain, jeered his every touch.
His finishing was wayward, his efforts lethargic and he should have been sent off in the second half when he headbutted Bruno Martins Indi. Fortunately for him, the referee didn't see it.
Manchester United supporters would have enjoyed this as much as the Dutch fans.
If this is what incoming manager Louis van Gaal can do with a fractious squad whose best days are behind them, then it bodes well for life at Old Trafford next season.
The fact that van Persie celebrated his first goal by sprinting to his manager and exchanging a powerful high five will also been seen as an encouraging sign.
That never happened with David Moyes.
The question now is how Spain will recover from this.
It wasn't just a beating, it was a massacre.
Never mind that they enjoyed the better of the first half, never mind the fact that they made enough chances to take a decisive lead into half-time.
When pressure was applied, this team folded.
They didn't have the fight, mentally or physically, to stand up for themselves. It's a long way back from here.
- SPAIN: Iker Casillas, Cesar Azpilicueta, Gerard Pique, Sergio Ramos, Jordi Alba, Xavi Hernandez, Sergio Busquets, Xabi Alonso (Pedro Rodriguez 63), David Silva (Cesc Fabregas 78), Diego Costa (Fernando Torres 62), Andres Iniesta
- HOLLAND: Jasper Cillessen, Daryl Janmaat, Stefan de Vrij (Joel Veltman 77), Ron Vlaar, Bruno Martins Indi, Daley Blind, Jonathan de Guzman (Georginio Wijnaldum 62), Wesley Sneijder, Nigel de Jong, Robin van Persie (Jeremain Lens 79), Arjen Robben
ROBIN VAN PERSIE (Holland)
HIGH-FIVE: Holland’s Robin van Persie celebrating with his coach Louis van Gaal (far right) after scoring.
Robin van Persie was a shadow of himself for his last Manchester United manager David Moyes, but he seems re-energised for his next manager, Louis van Gaal.
A constant threat to Spain, he matched his imperious touch and control with a fighting spirit that helped propel his nation to one of their finest nights in recent years.
You can tell a quality footballer, not by his instinctive reactions, but by what he can do when he has time to think, and time to doubt. For van Persie, there are no doubts.
The lofted first-half pass from the excellent Daley Blind seemed to hang in the sultry night air as if held aloft by invisible string.
Van Persie had time to ghost in to the box and stare at it as it began its descent.
A lesser man would have taken the time to weigh up his options, to ponder the best course of action, to allow fear to creep into his mind. Van Persie simply took up his position and deftly headed the ball home.
And he wasn’t done there. He smashed a shot off the crossbar, he made space for his teammates, he continued to hurt the Spanish, relentlessly and mercilessly.
And then he stole in to humiliate Iker Casillas, snatching the ball from him and slotting it home.
This is a truly special player and, for the first time in a year, he has found truly special form. He and van Gaal make a hell of a team.
Blow by blow
Penalty! Stefan di Vrij catches the trailing foot of Diego Costa, who makes the most of it. Xabi Alonso makes it 1-0 from the spot.
David Silva denied by a superb save from Jasper Cillessen after a great ball from Andres Iniesta.
Oh, how costly that has proved! Robin van Persie equalises with a diving header to convert a wonderful floated ball by Daley Blind! 1-1.
No more 2010 nightmares for Arjen Robben. He’s exorcised those demons with a wonderful goal, finding space with his first touch and then finishing so well. 2-1.
It keeps getting worse. A lofted cross from Robben, van Persie smashes into Iker Casillas and de Vrij is there to head the ball over the line. Holland 3-1.
It’s getting embarrassing for Spain. Casillas dallies on a backpass, allowing the ball to get away from him and van Persie is there to slot home the fourth goal. 4-1.
It’s five. The World Cup holders have conceded FIVE in their opening game. Robben breaks, loses Sergio Ramos, dances around the hapless Casillas and smashes home another goal. What is going on?