Netherlands made it two wins out of two in Group B as they emerged with a 3-2 victory from a hard-fought encounter with Australia. Louis van Gaal’s side were in high spirits after beginning their tournament by demolishing Spain 5-1 but Australia, defeated 3-1 in their opener against Chile, took the game to their opponents from the off.
The Socceroos’ high-tempo approach looked to be paying dividends until, with 20 minutes on the clock, the in-form Arjen Robben broke free around the halfway line and raced clear before slotting home the opener.
The advantage lasted barely a minute, though, as Tim Cahill cannoned a stunning volley in off the underside of the crossbar to bring the Socceroos level.
Early in the second half, Australia’s position improved when Oliver Bozanic, freshly introduced from the bench, clipped in a cross that struck Daryl Janmaat’s hand. The referee deemed the Dutchman guilty of handball and pointed to the spot, and Mile Jedinak confidently converted.
Once more, though, the advantage did not last: Robin van Persie — who, like Cahill, will miss his side’s final group game after collecting a booking — smashed in an equaliser before the Australians had had a chance to settle.
Australia might have restored their advantage when Tommy Oar had a clear sight of goal, but he opted to cross for Mathew Leckie, whose improvised effort with his chest was easily collected by goalkeeper Jasper Cillessen.
The Dutch duly advanced upfield and Memphis Depay, a replacement for the injured Bruno Martins Indi, unleashed a long-range shot that caught Socceroos goalkeeper Maty Ryan off guard and found its way into the net to secure the win.
A slow start was ignited by Robben, who received the ball just inside his own half, swerved past Alex Wilkinson at the halfway line and burst into the box. The Bayern Munich forward then despatched a clinical finish across goal for his third of the tournament.
The Socceroos responded almost immediately with a goal reminiscent of memorable strikes from Dutchmen Marco van Basten and Van Persie. Right-back Ryan McGowan drilled a cross-field pass over the Dutch defence and Cahill’s exquisite left-footed volley went in off the bar in what is sure to be remembered as one of the goals of the tournament.
Mark Bresciano had the chance to convert a ball pulled back from the right soon afterwards but could not keep his shot down.
Cahill blotted his record by bundling over Martins Indi to receive a yellow card. The defender was substituted with an ankle injury, with Depay replacing him and Netherlands switching to a 4-3-3 formation.
Van Persie will miss the Dutch side’s contest with Chile, meanwhile, after being booked within two minutes of the resumption for catching Matthew Spiranovic with a flailing arm.
Eight minutes into the second half Bozanic, on moments earlier for Bresciano, had a cross blocked by the arm of Janmaat and Algerian referee Djamel Haimoudi awarded a penalty. Jedinak sent Jasper Cillessen the wrong way.
There was another quick response as Van Persie was played onside in receiving Depay’s pass, turned and found the roof of the net. Tempers frayed following a challenge from the already-booked Van Persie on Jedinak before Leckie was unable to convert for the Socceroos.
Seconds later Australia were behind as Depay’s 30-yard strike swerved away from Ryan.
Nigel de Jong had a shot blocked as Netherlands tried to find a fourth in an end-to-end contest. Australia had opportunities, too, but could not find a leveller as their hopes of reaching the knockout stages ended.