Netherlands vs Chile match report World Cup 2014: Netherlands finish top thanks to Leroy Fer and Memphis Depay

Netherlands 2 Chile 0

Arena Sao Paulo

He has been harrumphing through press conferences for the past two weeks, complaining about the Dutch nation’s lack of belief in the football system he has attached to the country’s name. But there was a sweet sense of justification for Louis van Gaal last night as his team smothered Chile’s threat and defeated them in a classic manifestation of counter-attacking football. They did all they could have done to avoid Brazil in the second round.

Three wins to take into that stage make them Europe’s stand-out side and one who are dangerous and organised, if not necessarily a group to take the breath away.

You put the last part of that assessment to Van Gaal at your peril, though, because there was some excellent evidence of what lies in wait for the Premier League, when Manchester United’s manager-in-waiting was asked about the lack of attacking ambition.

“That’s a striking question isn’t it?” he said, rounding on his questioner. “Could you give a definition of attacking football? That’s my question to you. You have such a clever question. Now give me an answer.”

 The indefatigable American inquisitor kept at it: “I’m just telling you what I saw.”

“If you are going to ask me, I’m going to ask you.” End of conversation.

It was also put to Van Gaal that his three World Cup wins and imminent new job must make him feel fine. “Manchester United has nothing whatsoever to do with this. If you look at my CV you will know I win a lot of matches,” he replied. So could he win the World Cup? “We will have to wait and see, I think…”

 

Van Gaal could afford to adopt this tone. The Netherlands defended badly against Australia last week and the manager immediately did something about it, reducing the South Americans to a shadow of the side that defeated Spain.

His post-match observation that he had sought to capitalise on the fact that Chile “always give away more space in the last 15 minutes” was borne out by the way the match was won. “We always analysed that in Chile. The cleverest team won the match,” Van Gaal said, and it was difficult to argue with that.

He also enjoyed the self-reflected glory of seeing both his substitutes score – the first of them less than two minutes after arriving on the field. Leroy Fer of Norwich City claimed the distinction of becoming the first player at that club to score at a World Cup finals when he leapt to navigate home a strong 77th minute header. PSV’s Memphis Depay wrapped things up.

Though Van Gaal insists that his 5-3-2 system is total football with different numbers, it was a cagey Dutch performance in the game which promised to offer the best sense yet of where the balance of power lay between Europe and South America.

The Chile coach Jorge Sampaoli was not happy. “We had the idea of winning,” he said. “That’s why we gave our all but could not find a solution to a team that only defended and only aspired to have long strikes and not counter-attacks.”

Van Gaal retorted: “I’m not really interested in what the national coach of Chile says, so I’m not going to comment on it.”

Sampaoli’s team had their moments in a first half they shaded. Felipe Gutierrez had two chances, the best of them after a rare escape from centre halves Ron Vlaar and Stefan de Vrij which left him unhindered to meet Marcelo Diaz’s lofted free-kick. He navigated his header over the bar. Vlaar and De Vrij were two of the game’s best players though, bettered only by Arjen Robben, who was in the same stratosphere that he has occupied throughout this World Cup. Robben bounced off Gonzalo Jara late in the first half, dropping a shoulder past Gary Medel and leaving Charles Aranguiz trailing as he shaped to shoot, dragged a left-foot shot narrowly wide.

If there is a problem for the Dutch as the tournament progresses, it may be the dependence on that 30-year-old, with Wesley Sneijder struggling to make any impression. Depay is some proposition, though. It was in the last 15 minutes that the Dutch delivered the final pieces of an impeccable performance of its kind. Depay had been on the field for two minutes when he added extra gusto, shooting for 20 yards and forcing Claudio Bravo to touch over.

Then Fer arrived on the field and was perfectly positioned to meet a ball that was recycled from the right which sailed over Vlaar’s head in a congested area, allowing him to meet it.

A good Chilean appeal for a De Vrij handball was turned down and the final Dutch knife between the shoulderblades – in injury time – was archetypal counter-attacking football. Daley Blind cleared high and long to Robben, who raced down the left and crossed for Depay to stab the ball home in the area.

“That’s luck. That’s luck. I know that Leroy can strike the ball well and really move forward,” Van Gaal said of his substitutions.

The Dutch reward for topping their group is an extra day’s rest before a second-round game in Fortlaeza. With Robin van Persie back into the ranks for that game on Sunday, they move forward with confidence – not a commodity their manager lacks.

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