SAO PAULO — When no one expected it, the Dutch turned on the style with a barrage of World Cup goals and a 5-1 victory on Friday that humiliated defending champion Spain.
Rain and clouds may have shrouded Salvador, but the orange shirts of the Dutch fans brightened up the Arena Fonte Nova as they celebrated one of the Netherlands’ most famous World Cup victories in a rematch of the 2010 final.
Even more so than Brazil’s opening win on Thursday, or Mexico’s rain-soaked 1-0 win over Cameroon earlier Friday, the Dutch put the World Cup on a festive footing.
Fellow veterans Robin van Persie and Arjen Robben produced two superb each and showed the host nation why the Dutch have often been called the Brazilians of Europe.
“It was inexplicable,” said Van Persie, the leader of a team which has come to Brazil carrying few expectations from a nation that has often been praised for sparkling soccer. The veterans were thought too old, the rookies too inexperienced.
Players openly said that just avoiding defeat against Spain would be enough, never mind beautiful play. However, the game yet again lived up to its reputation for unpredictability.
“This is why you play football,” the Netherlands’ beaming coach Louis van Gaal said after his disputed move to a 5-3-2 lineup proved a masterstroke.
Spain was always going to try to dominate possession, as in the 2010 World Cup final, but this time the Dutch knew how to hit back.
The defending champion started Diego Costa but the striker was as ineffectual as the rest of the aging team, highlighted by a massive blunder by Iker Casillas that led to Van Persie’s second goal, a symbol of Spain’s fate on an infamous Friday 13th.
It was Spain’s worst World Cup loss since losing 6-1 to Brazil when the tournament was last held here, 64 years ago.
“All of us have to find a way to solve it,” Del Bosque said.
One fact to bear in mind, though: Spain also lost its opening game four years ago before lifting the cup.
Spain went on to beat the Netherlands 1-0 in the 2010 title match in South Africa, but that seemed like a long time ago during Friday’s rout.
“We found space in the first half, but everything started crumbling in the second,” Del Bosque said.
With Chile next on Wednesday, Del Bosque needs his team to rediscover its former defensive strengths.
“We have to move forward, keep quiet, work hard and look at the next match as the most important final of the tournament,” said Casillas after earning his 155th — and most humbling — cap.
Chile 3, Australia 1: In Cuiaba, Brazil, Alexis Sanchez produced a dynamic performance to lead Chile to a win over Australia, scoring one goal and setting up another for one of the dangerous outsiders in the tournament.
Chile threatened to run away with the game in muggy Cuiaba when Sanchez poked home from close range in the 12th minute before setting up Jorge Valdivia barely a minute later for the playmaker to finish from the edge of the area.
“Alexis is always the plus for us,” said Chile coach Jorge Sampaoli. “His high standing, his personality, what he brings to the team, we are glad to have him in our team.”
Australia recovered well, responding with a trademark headed goal by star forward Tim Cahill in the 35th and giving the Chileans a string of scares in the second half. However, Jean Beausejour put the game away for Chile in injury time.
“Early on, we were probably just overawed by the whole thing,” Australia coach Ange Postecoglou said. “In the end, we gave away a two-goal start and that’s what killed us.”