By David Ornstein BBC Sport at Arena Fonte Nova, Salvador
Story of the match:
- Costa wins Spain a penalty
- Silva misses chance for 2-0
- Van Persie levels to start rout
- Casillas at fault for fourth goal
Netherlands produced one of the biggest shocks in World Cup history by coming from behind to annihilate reigning champions Spain in a stunned Arena Fonte Nova.
Spain lived up to their favourites tag by opening the scoring through a Xabi Alonso penalty, but Robin van Persie equalised with an incredible diving header just before half-time and Arjen Robben put Netherlands in front with a cool finish.
Stefan de Vrij forced in a third from Wesley Sneijder’s free-kick, Van Persie dispossessed goalkeeper Iker Casillas to make it four and Robben’s brilliant solo effort sealed the win.
Spain, looking to win a fourth consecutive major international trophy, were humbled and humiliated in the repeat of the 2010 World Cup final. The last time they conceded five goals in an international match was in 1963 – and it might not only be a fatal blow to their hopes in this tournament, but it could signal the end of an era for one of the game’s greatest teams.
Three-time runners-up Netherlands will suddenly find themselves talked about among the leading contenders to lift the title and it is not unrealistic if they maintain this level of display.
It was their first meeting with Spain since the showpiece four years ago and the first time the previous finalists had met in the opening round of matches at the next World Cup.
Ear-splitting noise reverberated around one of Brazil’s most impressive stadiums as the teams emerged before kick-off.
The Dutch fans have travelled in far smaller numbers than usual – a reflection of their pre-competition hopes – but there were still pockets of orange mixed in with the red of Spain, yellow of Brazil and the colours of various other teams, fitting in this melting pot of a city.
It made for a mighty atmosphere, including boos for pantomime villain Diego Costa – born in Brazil and capped by them before switching allegiances to Spain.
- Four goals is the biggest losing margin by a defending champion
- Spain have conceded 5+ goals in an international for the first time since losing 6-2 to Scotland in June 1963
- Only once before had Spain conceded 5+ goals in a World Cup game (1-6 v Brazil in Brazil in 1950)
- Robin van Persie has scored 10 goals in his last nine Netherlands appearances and Arjen Robben has scored seven goals in his last seven appearances for the Dutch
Costa was clattered early on by Ron Vlaar, and there were more heavy challenges as the first half progressed, but any idea that the Netherlands would turn this into an encounter as brutal as that witnessed in Johannesburg were soon dismissed.
Indeed, it was Louis van Gaal’s men who created the first clear chance when Robben slipped Wesley Sneijder clean through, captain Casillas saving his side with a one-handed save.
That miss appeared costly when Xavi released Costa and he fell under the challenge of De Vrij, Italian referee Nicola Rizzoli pointed to the spot despite replays showing Costa had stood on the Feyenoord defender’s leg.
Alonso slotted past Jasper Cillessen to cue Spanish celebrations – but rather than leading to a period of dominance, Vincent del Bosque’s men sat back and tried to defend their lead.
After David Silva wasted a glorious opportunity that would come back to haunt Spain, Netherlands accepted the invitation to get forward and finally enjoyed some possession.
They grew in confidence and stunned Spain when Van Persie escaped the attentions of Sergio Ramos and met Daley Blind’s crossfield pass with an astonishing header that looped over a despairing Casillas. The goal will be shown again and again for years to come.
Netherlands left the field at the break embracing each other with wide smiles – Spain looked shellshocked – and they carried that momentum into the second half.
Van Gaal’s men deservedly took the lead when Xavi – the heartbeat of Spain’s midfield for so long – lost possession and Blind supplied another pinpoint aerial pass from the left, which Robben controlled before eluding Gerard Pique and finishing confidently.
Spain were now rocking and Van Persie fired against the bar before De Vrij bundled a third goal over the line after Casillas missed Sneijder’s set-piece.
The goalkeeper protested that he had been impeded by Van Persie – and he had a point – but Rizzoli was unmoved and the Netherlands were suddenly in control.
Casillas had endured a torrid evening and it deteriorated further when he miscontrolled a backpass and was tackled by Van Persie, who was greeted with an empty net.
Silva had a strike disallowed for offside but was then guilty of poor control, allowing Robben to counter-attack, outpace Ramos and wrap up the scoring with one of the great World Cup goals.
Spain were in pieces and continued to be torn apart, substitute Jeremain Lens and Robben going close. Substitute Fernando Torres looked certain to register a consolation, only for Blind to arrive with a timely last-ditch challenge.
The full-time whistle was met with scenes of Dutch joy and Spanish woe, on the turf and in the stands. Netherlands embarked upon a lap of honour.
It was a result that will send shockwaves through world football.