SAO PAULO - A powerful and pacey Netherlands side beat Chile 2-0 on Monday in a game that only burst into life late on, securing them top spot in World Cup Group B and ensuring they avoid a tricky meeting with hosts Brazil in the last 16.
Substitute Leroy Fer scored with his first touch of the tournament, thumping home a close-range header in the 77th minute.
Another replacement, Memphis Depay, made it two in stoppage- time after a marauding Arjen Robben broke down the left, turning what had been a scrappy match short of goal-mouth action into a comfortable win for the Dutch.
The Netherlands, who will play Mexico in the next round, ended the group stage on a perfect nine points with Chile second on six. Outgoing champions Spain finished third on three points after beating Australia 3-0.
Chile, who next face Brazil, complained the Dutch team were unnecessarily negative, knowing a draw was enough to win the group.
"They ended up winning, but in my opinion it was unfair because I think Chile made a huge effort to attack," coach Jorge Sampaoli told reporters.
"We wanted to play and the Netherlands didn't."
But his Dutch counterpart Louis van Gaal said the end justified the means, having seen his players frustrate Chile and reduce them to a single shot on target all game, and that from a tight angle.
"You have got to develop a strategy that will let you win," he said, taking exception to a reporter's question about his tactics. "We are not giving much away and we are creating opportunities. "This is being confirmed by the results, if it wasn't then you'd chop off my head, I'm sure of it."
DEFENCE OUTSHINES ATTACK
Man-of-the-match Robben said he was proud of the Dutch defence, an aspect of their play that has been overshadowed so far by a fearsome attack that had to do without Robin van Persie, who was suspended after receiving two yellow cards.
"It was a very good game to watch, there was a lot of passion on the pitch, we defended really well. I am proud of the way the team defended," Robben said in a television interview.
"I think we did a great job and this is not where we want to stop. It is a fantastic result and a fantastic performance and we don't want it to end here, we need to change our mindset as we want to move forward."
Chile, already qualified but knowing only a win would secure top spot owing to an inferior goal difference, pressed hardest and bossed possession, but their lone effort on goal summed up a frustrating afternoon for the South Americans.
Despite the impressive support of a large Chile contingent in the stands of Corinthians arena in Sao Paulo, they foundered time and again on a wall of orange and the absence of influential midfielder Arturo Vidal cost them dearly.
Vidal, who had knee surgery last month, told reporters on Sunday that he was ready to play, but coach Jorge Sampaoli appeared to have the knockout stages in mind when he left him on the bench.
Alexis Sanchez dropped deep and worked hard to pull the strings in midfield, but the Netherlands were strong in the tackle and grew into the game after being eclipsed early on.
"The next game I wouldn't miss for anything," Vidal told reporters. "The first two games were really hard and my knee was hurting a little. It was better to rest, as the coach saw it. "It's great that we'll have him (Vidal) on Saturday," said fellow midfielder Marcelo Diaz. "Given his skills, his experience and the energy he gives us on the field, we look forward to getting him back."
Chile's best result at a World Cup came on home soil in 1962, when they finished third. In 1998 and 2010 they reached the last 16, only to exit at the hands of Brazil on both occasions.
"Brazil has been a nightmare for us, but our football keeps changing, the generations keep growing and it's brought out the best of Chile," Vidal said.