The Aussies put forth a valiant effort again, but again they could not sustain the pressure as the Netherlands picked up their second comeback win in two World Cup matches 3-2 on a 68-minute winner by Memphis Depay.
The Socceroos led briefly after Mile Jedinak buried an early second-half penalty, but Robin van Persie equalized four minutes later, and substitute midfielder Depay hit from distance 10 minutes later to bury the Australians.
The game started with the Dutch on top, but progressed in the opposite direction than the one against Spain did. Australia slowly built themselves into possession and into the game, and because of that the first Dutch goal came against the run of play.
Australia gave the ball away in the midfield, with Daley Blind stepping in and heading it over to Robben, and the Dutch winger took over from there. He skipped past a foul in the midfield, for which he was given advantage, and found himself 2-on-1 in the box. He passed up a wide-open Robin van Persie and took the shot himself, finishing low across the face to the far post past a sprawled Maty Ryan.
But don’t count the Socceroos out. They weren’t phased, and came down the other end immediately to respond. Ryan McGowan, in the lineup for an injured Ivan Franjic, launched a beautiful long ball to Cahill, who fired a brilliant volley off the crossbar and in. The goal came 70 seconds after Robben opened the scoring.
There was no more scoring in the first half, but Australia asserted their dominance, winding up with 55% of possession. Robin van Persie finished the half with just one shot and 11 touches, while Wesley Sneijder ended the first 45 just 9-of-16 passing.
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The second half provided even more entertainment. The Dutch defense proved even more shaky early after the break, and the Aussies capitalized. After a promising attack that went unpunished just five minutes after halftime, the Aussies struck with their next chance.
In the 53rd minute, substitute striker Oliver Bozanic whipped in a cross with Daryl Janmaat covering, and the ball struck the defender’s hand in the box. Replays showed the two men were very close to each other and it was clearly hard for Janmaat to get his hand out of the way, but it was behind him and therefore in an unnatural position, blocking the cross into the box.
With the penalty given, Crystal Palace midfielder Mile Jedinak converted low and powerful, and the Socceroos had a shocking lead.
But just like Australia in the first half, the Dutch responded almost immediately. The deficit provided a kick in the rear they required, and van Persie bore the fruit, slotted through by Depay and finishing powerfully for the lead.
Mathew Leckie had a brilliant chance to go in front on 67 minutes after a bad giveaway by Ron Vlaar, but Leckie’s chest shot went straight at Davy Cillessen after the cross by Tommy Oar. It proved detrimental, as the Dutch would take advantage moments later down the other end.
Substitute Depay, on for the injured Bruno Martins Indi, had a go from long range, and the swerving shot crept into the net past a bamboozled Ryan, giving the Dutch a lead again at 3-2.
The Aussies quickly began to tire, and struggled to keep possession. As the Dutch asserted their ascendency just as Chile did late in the game a week ago against Australia, they prevented a second comeback by the underdogs by holding much of the ball in the final 10 minutes.
There were two yellow cards of note. Tim Cahill clattered Indi in the first half, earning him his second yellow card of the tournament and a suspension for the match against Spain along with it. With Cahill at 34 years old, the suspension likely means he has played his final World Cup game, and maybe even his final in an Australian shirt. Indi also appeared to be unconscious after the collision, and was substituted off.
Robin van Persie also picked up a yellow early in the second half – his second in two matches – for a wild elbow, and will miss the Dutch group-stage finale against Chile.
The win gives the Dutch 6 total points, and they will clinch a place in the knockout round if Chile wins or draws against Spain later today. The same situation would see the Aussies mathematically knocked out of the tournament.
Netherlands – Cillessen, Vlaar, de Vrij, Indi (Depay 45′), Blind, de Jong, Janmaat, de Guzman (Wijnaldum 78′), van Persie (Lens 87′), Sneijder, Robben.
Goals: Robben 20′, van Persie 58′, Depay 68′
Australia – Ryan, Davidson, Spiranovic, Wilkinson, McGowan; Jedinak, McKay, Oar (Taggart 77′), Leckie; Bresciano (Bozanic 52′), Cahill (Halloran 68′).
Goals: Cahill 21′, Jedinak (pen) 54′