Wednesday, in Porto Alegre, Brazil, the Australian National Football Team was defeated by their opposite from the Netherlands 3-2 in their World Cup Group B. This was an expected result, but it was very close to being an unexpected one, in the vein of those that have preceded it in this surprising tournament.
The game began as scripted with the Europeans pressing on attack and the Australians defending with all of their players. But it also began with what seems to be the continued Dutch tactic of overly aggressive play that borders on the violent. De Jong alone had six fouls the first half and two should have been yellow. Every time the Aussies were near the Dutch goal the recipient of the second or third pass somehow wound up on the pitch face down.
As the players settled into their games it became obvious the Dutch were not as powerful as their first game might have suggested. The Aussies played them even the entire half and had their own chances to score which only their innocence allowed them to squander.
Then came a two minute span when Arjen Robben ran down the middle of the field and cut to the left for a change on a breakaway at the 20th minute. He shot across goal toward the far post for the score. In fairness the Australian goalkeeper, Matthew Ryan, reacted early and could have made the save had he but kept his cool an added second.
The Dutch took this advantage as indicative of their moment to go all out but it lasted less than 30 seconds. Within a minute of the Dutch goal the Australians sent a long cross from right to left that found Tim Cahill at the far side of the box. He volleyed the cross into the roof of the goal leaving Dutch goalkeeper, Jasper Cillessen, without a chance. Golazo! Possibly the best goal of the cup so far. Game tied at the 21st minute.
The game became cautious for a while as the players caught their breadth before picking up steam. Both teams seemed to feel they had the wherewithal to pull ahead. Neither did leaving the pitch with the 1-1 score line, but the half was as exciting as we have seen this cup.
The second half produced much of the same type of action with both teams playing each other even and this time it was the Australians who pulled ahead. On a quick counter a blocked cross in the box led to a hand ball, and midfielder Mile Jedinak faked Dutch goalkeeper, Jasper Cillessen, for the put away from the penalty spot at the 54th minute.
But again the reaction was nearly immediate as on a sustained attack a through ball found the far side defender off his line and allowing all three Dutch strikers on side. Robin van Persie was the first to react and he easily put the ball away. Game tied at 2-2.
At the 68th minute the type of sad and innocent goal the cup has now seen often enough changed the tenor of the match. Memphis Depay took a speculative shot from 25 yards out which should have been parried but instead found the back of the net because of the poor positioning of the Aussie goalkeeper. Holland 3, Australia 2.
In fairness to Ryan he then had a series of spectacular saves that kept the game at the single goal difference for the subsequent 20 minutes, stoppage time included. At the end it was a fortunate if expected victory for the Netherlands who will now progress while ensuring the Aussies go home regardless of the result of their final match against Spain.