Netherlands forward Robin van Persie paid tribute to Louis van Gaal for masterminding the team's crushing 5-1 victory over reigning world and European champions Spain.
Van Persie scored two goals in Salvador, the first a majestic header that ensured the teams went into half-time all square, but he insists the triumph was all down to Van Gaal. "This is definitely down to him," said the 30-year-old. "If you see how he prepared us, and how he predicted the game would go, and you see how it went – unbelievable. For the whole Netherlands, this is a dream come true.''
Indeed, as the result was announced at the Arena Fonte Nova, Oranje supporters around the world were pinching themselves – the majority of the stadium, the hundreds on Copacabana beach, the thousands crammed into Eindhoven's PSV Stadion, where there was a public screening. After Van Persie had cancelled out Xabi Alonso's penalty, goals from Arjen Robben and Stefan de Vrij made it 3-1. Further goals from Van Persie and Robben completed Spain's embarrassment.
This was the worst defeat a defending champion had ever suffered at the World Cup and it was the first time Spain had conceded five at the tournament since they were last in Brazil, 64 years ago. The Netherlands had given them a taste of their own medicine, gaining some vengeance for their 2010 World Cup final loss with what the Spanish call a manita (a little hand), a goal for each finger. By the end their passing was made to the sound track of 'Olés'.
"Often you go quiet after two or three goals but we went on, and on, and on," Van Persie added. They sure did. Van Gaal was predictably delighted, but cautioned that it will mean nothing if the Netherlands do not build on it. "We don't have anything yet," the 62-year-old said. "We've made a pretty start. If you beat Australia [on Wednesday], then you've made a good start.''
Spain's next opponents are Chile, who opened their Group B account by beating Australia 3-1. Lose and Vicente del Bosque's side could be out, though the Roja can take heart from the fact that they also lost their opening 2010 World Cup fixture – and that tournament did not end badly for them.
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