Dutch on a canter

Dutch on a canter
WRATH OF ORANJE: Holland’s Ron Vlaar (right) and Dirk Kuyt arguing with Chile forward Alexis Sanchez.

GROUP B

HOLLAND 2

(Leroy Fer 77, Memphis Depay 90+2 )

CHILE 0

Holland tied up Group B in Sao Paolo yesterday morning (Singapore time), beating Chile by two goals to keep the energetic South American side back in second place.

In a game of few chances, the two teams largely cancelled each other out until substitute Leroy Fer broke the deadlock in the 77th minute.

Louis van Gaal's side deserve great credit for navigating his way to the top of this group and managing to avoid a clash with the winners of Group A, likely to be the hosts Brazil.

The Dutch were wiped out in Euro 2012 and went home without recording a single point.

With maximum points on the board and the unforgettable annihilation of Spain to remember for decades to come, it's fair to say that van Gaal has made a considerable improvement.

Manchester United supporters, eager for him to come and clear up the mess of the David Moyes era, have much to look forward to.

RESTED

Through two counts of necessity and one of choice, van Gaal made three changes to the starting 11 he'd used for the Dutch's opening games.

With Robin van Persie suspended for picking up two cautions, Jeremain Lens played alongside Arjen Robben up front.

With Bruno Martins Indi injured, Daley Blind was pushed into the centre of defence while former Liverpool workhorse Dirk Kuyt replaced him at left back.

Chile, with qualification secure, opted to rest Arturo Vidal, a wise move given that the Juventus midfielder has been playing through the pain barrier.

He will doubtless return for the second round game, rested and refreshed.

If the South Americans are to face Brazil, they will be confident that their high intensity, high pressing game will be enough to avenge their 2010 exit at the same stage.

With the performances they have given, they have no need to fear anyone.

With two tactical masterminds in the dugout, it was hardly surprising that the two teams neutralised each other so effectively for so long.

Though the football was entertaining, the movement clever and the effort obvious, the defending was excellent and chances were few and far between.

Not a single shot was placed on target for over an hour and the best chance fell to Robben, whose 40th minute run ended with a wayward shot skidded across the goalmouth.

Both teams matched each other with a back three and there was no let up in the attempts to close each other's players down at every opportunity.

For any student of football tactics, this was something of a masterclass in containment.

For everyone else, it would have been nice to have seen a little more in the way of goalmouth action.

DUTCH ASCENDANCY

Jean Beausejour replaced Felipe Gutierrez at the break, an effort from Jorge Sampaoli to inject some more pace into the team, but it was the Dutch who enjoyed marginally the better of the second period, gaining supremacy as the match wore on.

Wesley Sneijder paid the price for another underwhelming display when he was withdrawn in the 75th minute and replaced by Fer.

Sneijder was one of the best players of the 2010 World Cup, but his form has collapsed in the four years that have followed.

Still a remarkably gifted footballer, he looks less than urgent about his business and there is a feeling that he is dragging his team down.

To reinforce that point, Fer scored within moments of taking his place, powering home a cross after finding a rare patch of space in the Chilean box. To rub salt in the wound, Memphis Depay tapped home in injury time after a lung-busting run from Robben.

The disappointing Sneijder may not play much more of a role in this tournament. Holland, you feel, almost certainly will.

npsports@sph.com.sg


This article was first published on June 24, 2014.
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