SAO PAULO — Louis van Gaal, one of the game’s greatest coaches, was criticized before the World Cup for being too defensive for a nation that loves attacking play.
His decision to field five defenders against Spain though, proved a masterstroke.
His team thrashed the defending world champions 5-1 Friday with a clinical display of counterattacking football that had Spain chasing shadows at the end as Dutch fans roared “Ole!” each time their team passed the ball.
“If you see how he prepared us, and how he predicted the game would go, and you see how it went — unbelievable,” said Robin van Persie whose stunning header to equalize just before halftime turned the tide of the match and lit up social media accounts around the world. “It went exactly as the entire technical staff predicted.”
It was Spain’s worst loss in the tournament since a 6-1 defeat to Brazil in 1950.
In the day’s other matches, Chile beat Australia 3-1, leaving Spain at the bottom of Group B. In Group A, Mexico edged Cameroon 1-0 on a 61st-minute goal by Oribe Peralta to take second spot behind Brazil.
But it was the Dutch performance that shocked even casual fans on the second day of World Cup, showing why Manchester United was so keen to sign Van Gaal to rebuild the storied club.
He starts work at Old Trafford when the Netherlands leave Brazil. If they keep playing this way, he could keep Manchester fans waiting until mid-July.
The 62-year-old Dutchman has a history of getting the best out of teams and blending youth with experience, taking Ajax to the Champions League title in 1995.
He is bidding to make the Netherlands world champions for the first time after losing three finals — including four years ago when Andres Iniesta’s extra-time goal won it for Spain.
It wasn’t shocking for the Dutch to get revenge for that loss, but the way they demolished Spain — the dominant world football power since 2008 — sent a signal that the run of this generation of Spanish stars may be coming to an end.
Spain, which won the last two European Championships and the 2010 World Cup, will probably have to beat Chile and Australia to qualify for the next round, where a likely date with favorite Brazil awaits.
“They were better than us in the second half, you have to recognize that,” Spain coach Vicente Del Bosque said. “It’s a delicate moment for us. We need to find solutions now.”
Spain showed flashes of its slick-passing, ball-control, “tiki-taka” style, but never recovered from Van Persie’s masterful goal.
“The equalizer was very crucial at that point,” Netherlands midfielder Jonathan de Guzman said. “I think we took advantage of that.”
In the second half, Spain’s usually rock solid defense crumbled in the face of wave after wave of Dutch attacks, many starting off of long passes from defenders.
Veteran goalie Iker Casillas shouldered the blame.
“It wasn’t one of my best games, I wasn’t at the level I needed to be,” he said. “I have to accept all criticism.”
Mexico 1, Cameroon 0
NATAL, Brazil — Oribe Peralta scored in the second half to help Mexico to a 1-0 victory over Cameroon in torrential rain Friday, earning El Tri their first World Cup win over an African team and giving them a crucial three points in Group A.
Peralta’s left-foot shot in the 61st minute justified coach Miguel Herrera’s decision to start him ahead of striker Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez, arguably Mexico’s best known player.
Giovanni Dos Santos had two goals disallowed in a frustrating first half, when Samuel Eto’o hit the post for Cameroon.
Peralta broke the deadlock just as thousands of Mexican fans were cheering for Hernandez to come into the game. He swooped after Cameroon goalkeeper Charles Itandje parried a shot by Dos Santos.
Chile 3, Australia 1
CUIABA, Brazil — Alexis Sanchez produced a dynamic performance to lead Chile to a 3-1 win over Australia in the World Cup on Friday, scoring one goal and setting up another for one of the dangerous outsiders in the tournament.
Chile threatened to run away with the game in muggy Cuiaba when Sanchez poked home from close range in the 12th minute before setting up Jorge Valdivia barely a minute later for the playmaker to finish from the edge of the area.
But Australia recovered well, responding with a trademark headed goal by star forward Tim Cahill in the 35th and giving the Chileans a string of scares in the second half. However, Jean Beausejour put the game away for Chile in injury time.
Beckenbauer banned for snubbing probe
RIO DE JANEIRO — Former Germany great Franz Beckenbauer has been banned from all football activities for 90 days for not cooperating with an investigation into Qatar’s 2022 World Cup bid.
FIFA says the 90-day provisional ban was requested by ethics prosecutor Michael Garcia.
Beckenbauer was a voting member of FIFA’s executive committee in December 2010 when it chose Qatar, and Russia as 2018 World Cup host.
He said last week that he rejected two attempts by Garcia to speak with him.
Beckenbauer won the World Cup as both a player and coach is an adviser to FIFA’s football committee and a global ambassador for German champion Bayern Munich.
By wire sources