Robin van Persie and Arjen Robben inspired the Netherlands to a 5-1 comeback thrashing of Spain in one of the most unforeseen results in FIFA World Cup history.
A Xabi Alonso penalty put the defending champions ahead but, after David Silva had spurned a glaring chance to double the lead, the Dutch ran riot. Van Persie and Robben hit doubles apiece, both netting majestic goals, with Stefan de Vrij also getting on the score-sheet as Spain conceded over four times for the first time since 1963.
La Roja began the game by monopolising possession, but it was the Oranje who created the first noteworthy chance. Robben slid a sumptuous ball in behind the defence for Wesley Sneijder, who carried it into the box but hit his shot straight at a relieved Iker Casillas.
Moments later, Andres Iniesta won possession in the Netherlands’ last third and slipped the ball to Diego Costa. The Brazil-born striker was inside the box, but his touch let him down and allowed Ron Vlaar to get back and admirably stifle the danger.
Spain did go ahead on 27 minutes though. Following a neat passing move, Costa cut inside Stefan de Vrij and was tripped. The referee pointed to the spot and Xabi Alonso’s low, firm penalty found the bottom corner.
La Roja should have doubled their lead on 42 minutes. Andres Iniesta skipped inside his marker and exercised his extra-sensory vision and immaculate execution of pass to send David Silva one-on-one with Jasper Cillessen. The Manchester City playmaker attempted an elaborate chip, which the Ajax goalkeeper was away to tip round his post.
Silva held his head in his hands, and the Netherlands swiftly punished his mistake. Daley Blind played a long ball over the top of the Spain defence and, rather than bring the ball down, Van Persie produced a superb first-time header which looped over Casillas and went in.
Eight minutes into the second half the Oranje went in front. Robben, in mid-air, delightfully controlled a long ball forward, cut inside Gerard Pique and, with the aid of a deflection, fired the ball home.
It was almost 3-1 minutes later, with Robben leading a rapid counter-attack which ended with Van Persie cannoning the ball against the crossbar. But the Netherlands did double their lead on 64 minutes. Sneijder whipped a free-kick into the back post and, with Van Persie putting Casillas off, De Vrij bundled it in at the back post.
It got worse for Spain eight minutes later. Casillas, ahead of a seemingly straightforward clearance, miscontrolled the ball. Van Persie pounced, took it round him, slid in and poked it into the empty net.
Robben sealed a 5-1 success with another marvellous individual goal, showcasing blistering pace to escape the Spanish backline, rounding Casillas and fizzing the ball home.
Robben, Jeremain Lens and Sneijder all had chances to grab the Netherlands’ sixth of the night, but 5-1 was how it finished.