Honestly, you could’ve counted the Dutch out of the game within the first 30 minutes. The defense played flat and slow; midfielders fouled frequently; and Spain’s offense pressed while The Netherlands’ lagged.
Hell, the team’s starting a De Guzmán brother in the midfield–a Canadian!–so one had to wonder if the Oranje even had the talent to make it out of its group.
Then Robin van Persie scored the first of his two goals in the 44th minute to tie the game 1-1, and Spain crumbled. It was the perfect catalyst to a Spanish pillaging that even Franco couldn’t have masterminded in his most depraved state.
Watch van Persie go flying squirrel below, as Ajax defender Daley Blind serves his dome with a fishing-lure pass. Note not only the control it takes to commandeer that ball with that arc into the net, but also the abdominal strength it takes it knock it with that pace. Oh, and Van Persie also had to slow up slightly to catch it, so another bit of kudos.
What is there to say about Spain’s bed-sh*tting, though? Not much, and we’re sure even the best soccer pundits are left without a clue. On paper, this Spanish side–despite the age and size–are superior to the Dutch. But dropping the opening match 5-1 to a scrappy but young Dutch team… No one could’ve guessed that.
The Spanish probably still have some fight left in them–Lord knows they still have THAT roster–and we feel confident that they’ll move on. But damn, if isn’t the end of an era, it could be the start.
Correction: RVP scored twice, not thrice as the piece originally stated.