A long-range strike by substitute Memphis Depay gave the Netherlands a 3-2 win over Australia in a thrilling FIFA World Cup Group B match in Porto Alegre, Brazil, on Wednesday after a brave, hard-charging Socceroos side had threatened to earn a famous victory.
The game was marked by end-to-end action and spectacular goals — notably a stunning volley by Australia’s Tim Cahill which canceled out a goal by the Netherlands’ Arjen Robben only a minute earlier.
The match belied Australia’s status as underdogs and proved Netherlands coach Louis van Gaal’s warning that they would come out attacking to be correct, but in the end the mighty Netherlands, conquerors of holders Spain in their opening game, prevailed.
With the orange-clad Dutch fans and the Australians in yellow, Porto Alegre’s Estadio Beira-Rio looked like a giant fruit bowl in the early afternoon sun.
Van Gaal named the same side that hammered Spain 5-1, a result which elevated the Oranje from unfancied status to ones-to-watch. He also stuck with a 5-3-2 formation to guard against an Australia offensive, but switched to the 4-3-3 so beloved by the Netherlands after halftime.
“I felt that Australia in the first half was the most dominating team and I wanted to change that,” Van Gaal said. “I felt that in the second half that this worked out much better and there was more pressure on the ball, and that we created many more opportunities, so that was the solution against Australia.”
Both sides struggled to establish domination in the early stages, but Australia had the best of it, attacking down both flanks.
It was against the run of play when man-of-the-match Robben opened the scoring in the 20th minute. Picking up the ball on the halfway line, he charged toward the goal like a bull to a matador and slammed the ball past Mat Ryan.
However, Cahill replied immediately by crashing a fantastic long-range volley into the roof of the net for what will be a strong contender for goal of the tournament.
“It just felt so right to hit it and I hit it sweetly… This is what it’s all about because everyone dreams of playing on this stage, and I want to leave a mark for all the kids back in Australia and around the world to be inspired by this today,” Cahill said.
After that the pace stepped up as the Netherlands tried to get more wind in their sails, but it was Australia who looked more threatening. Mark Bresciano missed a chance in the 30th minute when good work by Matthew Leckie set him up, only for him to blast wide.
Nine minutes into the second half, Australia were awarded a penalty after Oliver Bozanic hammered the ball straight at Daryl Janmaat’s arm.
Socceroos captain Mile Jedinak coolly slotted the penalty passed Jasper Cillissen, giving Australia a 2-1 lead and the chance to dream, but this time it was the Netherlands’ turn to strike back quickly.
In the 58th minute Robin van Persie banged in a well-controlled shot inside the penalty area.
Matthew Leckie almost gave Australia the lead again when he chested down a cross in the penalty area, but Cillessen was able to gather the ball.
Within moments, it was back up the other end of the pitch and Depay whacked in what proved to be the winner with a long-range shot, sealing the game for the Netherlands in the 68th minute.
“Heartbreaker mate, I just wanted the players to get a reward,” Australia coach Ange Postecoglou said. “We went out there and we said we’d have a go, and we’ll do that in the last game.”