By TIM FONTENAULT
Australia had the world believing that another upset was in the making Wednesday afternoon, but as the Netherlands showed against Spain, they can sometimes prove to be too much to handle.
In one of the more back-and-forth games of the 2014 World Cup, the Dutch were able to hold on against Australia, coming from behind to win 3-2 at Estadio Beira-Rio in Porto Alegre, Brazil.
Arjen Robben, who led the charge in the Netherlands’ 5-1 thrashing of Spain in the opening match, finally put the Dutch ahead after 20 minutes. Using his world-renowned speed to his advantage, the Bayern Munich winger blew past the Australian defense and drove the ball across his body and into the net.
The orange-clad fans in the crowd were still singing and dancing with joy when Tim Cahill unleashed the goal of the tournament to this point.
Ryan McGowan put a cross into the box for Australia’s go-to scorer, who did not even let the ball touch the ground. The New York Red Bulls star fired a scorching shot over the head Jasper Cillessen and tucked it just under the crossbar to equalize for the Socceroos in the 21st minute.
Shortly before the break, Cahill received a yellow card for a rough foul on Bruno Martins Indi. Because it was his second booking of the tournament, Cahill will miss the final match of the Group Stage against Spain. At the age of 34, it also means that Wednesday could be the last time Cahill plays at a World Cup.
Not willing to settle for a draw, Louis van Gaal made the decision to replace Martins Indi with forward Memphis Depay at halftime. With an extra attacking player, the Dutch were able to force the issue, but even still, Australia was able to increase the pressure even more.
Daryl Janmaat played the ball with his hand in the penalty box, resulting in a penalty kick for Australia. Captain Mile Jedinak stepped up for the underdogs and buried the spot kick to give Australia a 2-1 lead.
They held the lead longer than the Netherlands did originally, but Australia was unable to keep the fiery Dutch from equalizing. Four minutes after Jedinak’s penalty kick, Robin Van Persie fired in a shot from the left side of the box to equalize.
In the 68th minute, Australia again had a chance to take the lead, but Tommy Oar opted for a questionable pass rather than going for goal himself. The decision resulted in a chance, but a weaker one that allowed the Netherlands on to the counter attack. At the other end, Depay fired in the winning goal.
A win or draw for Chile against Spain would put the Netherlands into the next round and eliminate Australia. Van Persie picked up a yellow card shortly after scoring, his second yellow card of the tournament, meaning he will miss the Netherlands’ final Group B match against Chile.