In a rematch of the 2010 FIFA World Cup final, Spain started strong but fell apart in the second half of a 5-1 drubbing against the Netherlands in Salvador. Once again, there was an early question about the officiating, though a decisive victor would ultimately emerge– just not the team everyone might have expected.
Spain went ahead 1-0 in the 27th minute, as Diego Costa was blatantly fouled in the penalty area… or was he? After Xabi Alonso stepped up to take the spot kick, striking forcefully with his right foot toward the lower right corner of the net for the goal, the replay made it look as though Costa rather than Steven de Vrij had initiated the contact. Dutch goalkeeper Jasper Cillessen guessed correctly and dove to his left for the ball, but he could not reach the shot as Spain took the lead.
Just before halftime, the Netherlands leveled. Robin van Persie broke through the Spanish defense, catching them flat-footed as he darted behind, and ran onto a long ball from Daley Blind. Launching his head toward the ball from the edge of the 18-yard box, van Persie made powerful contact with the ball and launched it past Iker Casillas for the equalizer.
The goal seemed to spark the Dutch team, and after halftime everything collapsed for Spain. In the 53rd minute Blind launched another beautiful pass from the left side, this time finding Arjen Robben darting inward toward the center of the pitch. Holding up and controlling the ball, Robben pivoted around two defenders and curled the ball with his left foot past Casillas for a lead that would only grow bigger as the second half continued.
After a series of substitutions, de Vrij gained a measure of justice for the penalty call against him by scoring the third for the Oranje. Van Persie and Robben would each add another, and the rout was complete.
With the loss, Spain falls to the bottom of Group B pending the result of the Chile-Australia match, while the Netherlands are now in the driver’s seat for passage to the next round. While Spain salvaged a title after losing to Switzerland in their opener four years ago, a four-goal deficit in the differential column could prove too much to overcome for a Spanish side that came into the tournament seeking to rewrite history.