Story of the half: Don’t tell Australia what happened to Spain last week, they don’t seem to care.
Despite the Dutch coming off a game in which they torched the defending champions 5-1, the Aussies haven’t just come out competitive, they’ve been flat out better.
The Australians absorbed some early pressure, and have things all square from Porto Alegre at 1-1. In fact, because the Australians have been better, it’s surprisingly appropriate to call the first Dutch goal “against the run of play.”
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20′ – Australia were proving up to the task early, but Arjen Robben broke 3-on-1 and took it himself, slotting far post past Maty Ryan for a 1-0 Dutch lead. Thanks to a headed pass from Daley Blind, Robben took the ball from the mid line, passed through a foul which the referee played advantage for, and made it all the way to the box for the finish. It appeared he had a wide-open Robin van Persie on the far side with Robben drawing the one defender, but he took it himself calmly.
21′ – Corner flag, I feel your pain. Tim Cahill responded immediately to Robben’s goal, catching the Dutch offsides and finishing powerfully off the underside of the crossbar and in. Off the restart, the referee played advantage for a Dutch foul, and the ball fell to Ryan McGowan who blasted a long-ball forward to Cahill on the far side of the box. The striker one-timed a volley and the score was level 1-1.
Other key moments:
30′ – The Aussies equalized right after the Dutch scored, and after the scoreline was restored at level, they continued to press the Dutch defense, and had a pair of opportunities on the half-hour mark. Mathew Leckie’s cross trickled through the box untouched and fell to Mark Bresciano who launched a missile just over the crossbar. Just after, an Aussie free kick fell through the Dutch defense untouched but also went unpunished.
44′ – Tim Cahill clattered into Bruno Martins Indi, earning himself a yellow card, his second of the tournament. That means he will miss Australia’s next match, the group A finale against Spain. Consequently, the next 45 minutes very well could be the last we see of the 34-year-old in a World Cup, or even in an Australia shirt altogether. The challenge also knocked Martins Indi out of the game with an injury, replaced by Memphhis Dupey.
Netherlands – Cillessen, Vlaar, de Vrij, Indi (Depay 45′), Blind, de Jong, Janmaat, de Guzman, van Persie, Sneijder, Robben.
Goals: Robben 20′
Australia – Ryan, Davidson, Cahill, Spiranovic, Leckie, Oar, Jedinak, McKay, McGowan, Wilkinson, Bresciano.
Goals: Cahill 21′
- Tim Cahill – Always and forever the key man in their attack, Cahill is consistently the target of Australian crosses into the box.
- Ryan McGowan/Mathew Leckie – A new addition into the Australian lineup with Ivan Franjic injured, McGowan was a force along the right-hand sideline, and pairing up with winger Leckie, the pair caused the Dutch all kinds of problems.
- Arjen Robben – With Wesley Sneijder struggling mightily and Robin van Persie invisible, Robben was the only man involved in consistent Dutch attacks, and scored their first goal with a skillful break.
Numbers to know:
4 – Tim Cahill’s World Cup goals for Australia, half of the country’s all-time World Cup scoring tally.
11 – Successful passes by Wesley Sneijder in 18 attempts, just a 61% completion rate.
11 – Number of touches for Robin van Persie in the first half. He has one shot, one completed pass, and is 0/1 in take-ons.
Questions for the second half:
- How will Louis van Gaal mold the offense to get his attack more involved? With Robin van Persie and Wesley Sneijder ineffective up front, this could be our first look at how van Gaal will work things at Manchester United when it’s not going as planned in the attack.
- Can Australia keep up the pressure? Australia held 55% of the possession, and outpassed the Dutch 207-163. It will be interesting to see how Australia counters the inevitable Dutch changes to come.