Robin van Persie of the Netherlands celebrates their 2014 World Cup victory over Australia at the Beira Rio stadium in Porto Alegre on June 18. Photo by Marko Djurica, Reuters
PORTO ALEGRE - A long-range strike by substitute Memphis Depay gave the Netherlands a 3-2 win over Australia in a thrilling World Cup Group B game but a brave, hard-charging Socceroos side came close to earning a famous victory.
The game was marked by end-to-end action and spectacular goals - notably a stunning volley by Australia's Tim Cahill which cancelled out a goal by the Netherlands' Arjen Robben only a minute earlier.
The match belied Australia's status as underdogs and proved Netherlands coach Louis van Gaal's warning that they would come out attacking to be correct. But in the end, the mighty Dutch, conquerors of holders Spain in their opening game, prevailed.
It was against the run of play when Robben opened the scoring in the 20th minute. Picking up the ball on the halfway line, he charged towards the goal like a bull to a matador and slammed the ball past Mat Ryan.
Tim Cahill replied immediately, however, by crashing a fantastic 20-metre volley into the roof of the net for what will be a strong contender for goal of the tournament. It was Cahill's 5th goal in three World Cups.
After that the pace stepped up as the Dutch tried to get more wind in their sails but it was the Australians who looked more threatening. Mark Bresciano missed a good chance in the 30th minutes when good work by Matthew Leckie set him up only for him to blast wide.
Nine minutes into the second half, Australia were awarded a penalty after Oliver Bozanic hammered the ball straight at Daryl Janmaat's arm.
Socceroos captain Mile Jedinak cooly slotted the penalty passed Jasper Cillissen, giving Australia a 2-1 lead and the chance to dream.
But this time it was the Netherlands' turn to strike back quickly. In the 58th minute Robin Van Persie banged in a well-controlled shot inside the penalty area.
Memphis Depay whacked in what proved to be the winner with a long-range shot 10 minutes later, sealing the game for the Netherlands and breaking Australian hearts.