By Mike Collett-White
A POWERFUL and pacey Netherlands side beat Chile 2-0 on Monday in a match that burst into life late on, securing them top spot in World Cup Group B and meaning they look set to avoid hosts Brazil in the last 16.
Substitute Leroy Fer scored with his first touch of the game, thumping home a close-range header from Daryl Janmaat’s cross in the 77th minute.
Another replacement, Memphis Depay, made it two in stoppage-time after a marauding Arjen Robbenbroke down the left, turning what had been a scrappy match short of goal-mouth action into a comfortable win for the Dutch.
The Netherlands ended the group stage on a perfect nine points with Chile behind them on six. Reigning champions Spain finished third on three points after beating Australia 3-0 in the other Group B match.
“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, knowing only a win would secure top spot owing to an inferior goal difference, pressed hardest in the first half and bossed possession but they failed to hit the target once.
The second half was not much better for the South Americans, who were clearly missing the influential Arturo Vidal in midfield and failed to match the heights of their shock 2-0 win over Spain in the previous game.
Alexis Sanchez dropped deep and worked hard to pull the strings in the middle, but the men in orange were more than equal to the task and frustrated Chile.
The Netherlands won without in-form striker Robin Van Persie, after he was suspended for two yellow cards.
But Robben was excellent again, launching a series of searing runs that threatened the Chile defence before his perfect cross sealed the three points.
Chile are now most likely to face Brazil in the last 16 on Saturday, while the Netherlands are expected to face either Croatia or Mexico the day after.
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.
“I think that this was a match that we expected, with the Netherlands trying to use lots of people on the counter attack,” said Chile coach Jorge Sampan.
“We looked for victory, we wanted to win and we couldn’t find a solution to a team that only defended and only aspired to long-range shots, not even counterattacks.
“This is a Chile that I am proud to be at the helm of, in spite of the fact that we didn’t get a result. The courage of the group, they have their heads held high and they are getting ready for the round of 16.”