PORTO ALEGRE, Brazil (CBSNewYork/AP) — The Netherlands are on the verge of qualifying for the World Cup knockout rounds after fending off a belligerent Australia 3-2 on Wednesday to follow up its opening 5-1 rout of defending champion Spain.
Memphis Depay scored a late clincher in the 68th minute, seconds after Tim Cahill missed a chance to put Australia ahead.
Arjen Robben and Robin Van Persie, who each scored twice against Spain, added to their tournament tallies before and after Australia’s goals, which included a stunning volley from Cahill that leveled the score at 1-1 in the 21st.
Australia is almost certainly out of contention following consecutive defeats, and Cahill will be missing in its last match against Spain after picking up his second yellow card of the tournament. Van Persie will miss the Netherlands last group match against Chile for the same reason.
“They just kept running. They actually scored well. The second half we went to our own system, what we’re used to,” Van Persie said. “But everyone did well. I’m really happy with the result.”
After a quiet start the game burst into life on the 20th minute when Robben collected the ball near halfway, sped through a gaping hole in the Australian midfield and shot powerfully past the outstretched left foot of Maty Ryan.
Another rout seemed in the works for only a matter seconds before Australia equalized, with Ryan McGowan sending a long, looping pass from the midfield to Cahill, who volleyed over Jasper Cillessen onto the underside of the bar in one of the best goals of the tournament so far.
Mark Bresciano and Matthew Spiranovic missed chances that could have given Australia a halftime lead.
Just before the interval, Cahill needlessly clattered into the back of Bruno Martins Indi deep within the Dutch half and was given a yellow card. He was also booked in Australia’s opening 3-1 loss to Chile, meaning the veteran Socceroos star may have played his last World Cup game. Martins Indi was helped off the field, and was replaced by Depay to start the second half.
After the break, Netherlands changed from a 5-3-2 system that worked so well against Spain to a more traditional Dutch 4-3-3 style to incorporate Depay, but it was Australia which took the surprise lead with a penalty after Daryl Janmaat handled the ball in the area.
Mile Jedinak converted from the spot in the 54th to make it 2-1 but Van Persie leveled again four minutes later, collecting the ball in space on the edge of the penalty area and firing into the roof of the net.
Ten minutes later, Depay fired a swerving low from around 25 yards and Ryan didn’t sight it early enough, the ball beating his right hand and securing three competition points for the Dutch.
Netherlands led Group B with six points ahead of Chile’s match later Wednesday against Spain.
Australia coach Ange Postecoglou said he was “heartbroken” by the loss.
“I just wanted the players to get a reward for the way they went about things today. We came to this World Cup and we’re playing against three of the best nations in the world,” he said. “People were saying we wouldn’t score a goal. In both games we’ve taken it to the opposition.”
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