Netherlands' forward Memphis Depay (C) is congratulated by teammates after scoring. AFP
Wednesday Jun 18, 2014. 19:36
The Netherlands moved to within touching distance of the last 16 in the 2014 World Cup with a thrilling 3-2 win over Group B rivals Australia in Porto Alegre on Wednesday evening.
Oranje, who entered the game as clear favourites after their 5-1 destruction of Spain last week, had to come from 2-1 down to claim the victory, with substitute Memphis Depay proving the surprising match-winner with his 68th minute goal.
The Dutch looked the stronger of the two teams in the opening exchanges, but had to wait until the 20th minute to open the scoring. Arjen Robben was the man who broke the deadlock, picking up the ball on the halfway line before powering forward and finding the back of the net with a low, left-footed shot.
However, Oranje’s lead last just a minute, as the Socceroos equalised through a superb volley from Tim Cahill. The attacker’s left-footed effort from a diagonal ball into the box beat goalkeeper Jasper Cillessen and went in via the underside of the crossbar to make it 1-1.
The goal seemed to spur Australia on, and they should have taken the lead just past the half hour mark through Mark Bresciano, but the attacking midfielder shot high and wide when presented with a clear sight of goal.
The half ended on a sour note for the Dutch when left-back Bruno Martins-Indi was forced off the pitch on a stretcher after a late challenge from Cahill. The Australian picked up a caution for the incident and will miss his side’s final group match against Spain.
And the same fate will befall Robin van Persie, who picked up his second yellow card of the tournament in a tussle with Australian defender Matthew Spiranovic early in the second half. He will miss Holland’s next match against Chile.
Eight minutes into the second half, the Socceroos were awarded a soft penalty. Substitute Oliver Bozanic’s attempted cross struck the arm of Daryl Janmaat and the referee pointed to the spot. Mile Jedinak converted the penalty in the 54th minute to put the Socceroos into a shock 2-1 lead.
But just as the Netherlands’ lead was short-lived in the first half, so Australia’s proved in the second. Van Persie sprung the offside trap just four minutes later and fired the ball past Maty Ryan to make it 2-2 with his third goal of the tournament.
Midway through the second half Holland substitute Memphis Depay put his side back in the lead with a swerving, long-range shot that Ryan should have done better with. However, Australia’s real regret was blowing a fantastic scoring chance of their own just seconds before Depay made it 3-2 to the Europeans.
Oranje will be guaranteed a place in the next round (and Australia will be eliminated) if Chile are not defeated by Spain in the second Group B match on Wednesday.