Spain 1 Netherlands 5 match report: Iker Casillas has nightmare performance as Robin van Persie and Arjen Robben run riot

It was a night to forget for Spain goalkeeper Iker Casillas

Revenge, they say, is a dish best served cold. It did not feel cold in the humidity of a Salvador evening but four years after losing the World Cup final to Spain, the Netherlands exacted revenge in quite stunning fashion here last night.

Outplayed for the first 44 minutes and trailing to a Xabi Alonso penalty, they came back to inflict a 5-1 hammering on the holders in which both Robin van Persie and Arjen Robben struck twice. Spain came back from an opening defeat by Switzerland in South Africa but it is hard to see how they can retain their title after a demoralising setback like this. They had not conceded five goals in an international since 1963 and though this World Cup is still very much in its infancy, it will take a special team to bounce back after being stunned by Louis van Gaal’s team in this Group B fixture.

Spain just could not live with the pace and quality of the Dutch attack who rounded off the rout with a quite brilliant individual goal from Robben who raced away from Sergio Ramos and rounded Iker Casillas before definitively burying the ghosts of Soccer City.


A game that began at a slow pace in humid conditions almost produced an early goal when Robben put Wesley Sneijder clear. As in Soccer City, though, when Robben was bearing down on his goal, Casillas was equal to Sneijder’s shot, sticking out a strong hand to push it away. It was not the only echo of the 2010 final as Nigel de Jong caught Sergio Busquets in the midriff; no kung-fu kick this time, but a strong arm and while Busquets went down like a drunk on an icy pavement, Nicola Rizzoli, the Italian referee, kept his card in his pocket. For all the talk about the Netherlands’ changes under Van Gaal, the striking feature of the first period was seeing Spain play with a genuine centre-forward in Diego Costa, a striker fresh from a 36-goal season with Atletico Madrid. For Costa, who had appeared twice in friendlies for Brazil, it was the first competitive start for his adopted country and came just three months after his Spain debut. The 25-year-old was born less than 200 kilometres from the Arena Fonte Nova, in the town of Lagarto, and his change of allegiance earned him loud boos when his name was read out before kick-off and again virtually every time the ball came anywhere near him.

Xabi Alonso gave Spain the lead


Yet with his clever runs, he gave Spain’s skillful passers an important outlet, stretching the Dutch defence, and he should have had an early goal when he broke clear after David Silva had robbed Jonathan De Guzman. Instead his heavy touch gave Ron Vlaar time to make the covering tackle. This is a Dutch team short on tournament experience – all but one of the back five were appearing for the first time in a major tournament – and it showed not least with Bruno Martins Indi. A slip by the Feyenoord centre-back let Silva play in Costa in a promising position on the right but his shot was wild and wayward.

On 26 minutes, Costa won the penalty with which Spain took the lead. It followed a typically flowing move through the midfield and a lovely Xavi through pass between two blue shirts, which set Costa clear. It was a questionable penalty all the same, Costa going down over the trailing leg of Stefan De Vrij as he stepped inside to shoot. Rizzoli did not hesitate to point to the spot and Xabi Alonso’s conversion was wonderfully precise, beating Jasper Cillessen even though he dived the right way.

David Silva missed a great first half chance


Spain were controlling the midfield and Silva should have doubled the lead in the 43rd minute when put through by Iniesta but his dink lacked the height to beat Cillessen.

Instead Van Persie brought them back into the game. It was an unusual goal in some ways, as Daley Blind sent over a deep cross from near the halfway line. Ramos lost Van Persie’s run and the striker threw himself at the ball and sent a wonderfully improvised header looping over Casillas from 16 yards.

Eight minutes after the restart the Dutch had a second goal, this time following a precise five-man move after Spain had lost possession in midfield. On the eve of this match Robben described his 2010 final miss as something that would remain with him “all my life” so what came next would have been sweet indeed. Plucking Blind’s pass out of the air, he turned Gerard Pique and fired past Casillas.

Gerard Pique challenges Arjen Robben for the ball


For all the debate about Van Gaal’s use of wing-backs and the questions about the Dutch rookies, what the Dutch do have is exceptional quality in attack and Spain’s struggling defence were almost pierced again as Van Persie smashed a shot against the crossbar. The reprieve was brief. Vicente Del Bosque had just sent on Fernando Torres for Costa – a change that gave the Brazilians in the crowd nothing more to sing about – when the game slipped further away from Spain as De Vrij bundled the ball in following a free-kick. It was a goal touched with controversy as Van Persie raised an arm as he jumped with Casillas, who let the ball run on to the far post where De Vrij converted.

Silva scrambled a shot into the net as Spain sought a response but was offside and instead their evening got even worse with 18 minutes remaining as Casillas’ heavy touch on a back pass was punished by Van Persie who stole in to tap in his second goal.

After Robben’s wonder goal, it might have got even worse for Spain as only a fine Casillas double save stopped the Dutch getting six.