SAO PAULO (AP) — When no one expected it, the Dutch turned on the style with a barrage of spectacular World Cup goals and a 5-1 victory on Friday that totally 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 all too often been spoilt for sparkling football. 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.
"A debacle. We did everything wrong," said Xavi, at 34 a shadow of his former self in the second half of Friday's game.
Later Friday, Chile drew level on points with the Netherlands in Group B after beating Australia in a tighter game than the 3-1 scoreline suggests.
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