Jun 25, 2014

    Dutch score freely - like never before


    THE Dutch have been here before in a World Cup.

    In South Africa four years ago on their way to the final, they also swept all three of their games in the first round.

    But they have never been this productive in scoring goals this early: not even in the days of Johan Cruyff and Total Football in the 1970s.

    The Dutch on Monday broke open a match against Chile that was long on full contact and short on open space in the 77th minute when Leroy Fer, a second-half substitute, took advantage of his first touch by scoring on a header.

    The Dutch struck again in added time on a counter-attack when Arjen Robben made just the right cross after a long run down the left wing and Memphis Depay, another second-half substitute, stabbed it into the net with his right foot.

    The goal finished off a 2-0 victory in style and confirmed that the Netherlands would finish first in Group B ahead of Chile, thereby avoiding a second-round match with Brazil.

    "Really important," said Fer, whose goal was his first for the Netherlands.

    "We wanted to win the group to avoid some teams, but you have to win every game from here to win the title."

    The Netherlands will face Mexico in the second round, and Chile, one of the upbeat stories of this World Cup, will face Brazil, the team the Dutch eliminated from the last World Cup, but which is at home this time.

    Mexico and its goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa, 28, have conceded one goal in this cup, but the Dutch have scored 10 in their three games.

    Ten goals is not bad for a team that Chile's coach, Jorge Sampaoli, said was only really interested in defending.

    Robben and Robin van Persie, both 30, each have three goals, but Dutch coach Louis van Gaal is also getting production from the new generation.

    The 20-year-old Depay has scored twice, and the 24-year-old Fer, who once considered representing the Netherlands Antilles, now has his first goal for the Netherlands.

    "You can say what you want, but a team who averages 3.3 goals a game is not really a defensive team," said Dirk Kuyt, 33, a Dutch veteran.

    It was another reaffirming afternoon for van Gaal, a strong-minded tactician who will soon take over as the manager at Manchester United, and who has mixed his line-ups and timed his substitutions adroitly.

    Playing without the team captain van Persie, who was suspended, van Gaal brought in Depay and then Fer at the right time, with Fer scoring two minutes after entering the game.

    "Well, that's luck," van Gaal said.