The Netherlands stormed to the top of Group B at the World Cup with an emphatic 5-1 win over reigning champions Spain in the tournament’s biggest shock so far. The Spanish took the lead on 27 minutes through a Xabi Alonso penalty, after sole striker Diego Costa was taken down in the box but Holland provided a scintillating response, kicked off by a Robin Van Persie diving header just before half time. The Dutch came out the stronger side after the break and took the lead eight minutes into the second half after Arjen Robben took the ball down in the box and calmly slotted it home. Defender Stefan De Vrij gave the Netherlands the lead capitalising on Spanish captain Iker Casillas’ mistake to bundle home a failed save. Casillas was again the villain as he took a heavy touch from a Jordi Alba backpass that let Van Persie in to score the fourth for Holland. Robben completed the rout by outpacing Sergio Ramos and blasting the fifth goal past Casillas. The shell-shocked Spain team couldn’t muster any further chances and the game finished 5-1, putting Spain’s defence of the World Cup in disarray and making the Netherlands favourites to win Group B.
In the second match of the group, Chile beat Australia 3-1 in less comfortable circumstances than they would have hoped. The Chileans raced in to a two-goal lead early on with Barcelona’s Alexis Sanchez powering home on 12 minutes and setting up Jorge Valdida for another two minutes later. Australia fought back, and narrowed the deficit on 35 minutes as Tim Cahill nodded home Ivan Franjic’s cross. Chile threatened to extend their lead but looked vulnerable on the counter as Australia pushed for what could be their only point of the tournament. Chile’s pressure paid off in injury time as Wigan’s Jean Bousejour fired home the rebound from a Mauricio Panilla shot, earning Chile a 3-1 win.
With the hardest game on paper out of the way, Holland are the favourites to win Group B with Australia their next opponents on Wednesday (5pm, ITV) unlikely to be able to pose much of a threat. The next match will be an important one for both Chile and Spain, with Chile almost certain of a second-round spot with a win and Spain looking to bounce back from a defeat that will have shaken them to the core. They play each other in the Maracanã in Rio de Janeiro on Wednesday (8pm, BBC).
Group B was always one of the groups of death on paper, but no-one could have predicted that the defending champions would be on the canvas so soon into the tournament. It’s all still to play for with two games left.