By DAN KARELL
There are few teams in as good a vein of form as the Netherlands right now at the World Cup.
In a tightly-contested match against Chile at the Arena Corinthians in Sao Paulo on Monday afternoon, the Netherlands scored two second half goals via substitutes Leroy Fer and Memphis Depay to defeat Chile, 2-0, and secured top place in Group B.
With the defeat, Chile settle for second place in the group, which could mean a date with hosts Brazil in the Round of 16 depending on this afternoon’s results.
Although both teams had already secured a place in the knockout round, the match was an enjoyable one from the start as Chile took the game to the Netherlands. The Oranje were missing Robin Van Persie and Bruno Martins Indi from their regular lineup, dropping Nigel De Jong into an advanced centerback position to help defend against Chile star Alexis Sanchez.
Chile focused a lot of their attacks down the wings, particularly the left side as full back Eugenio Mena was used a lot for his overlapping runs. Chile used three centerbacks to try and offset the Netherland’s attack, but the were no match for the counter-attacking nature of the Dutch. In fact, despite the scoreline, Netherlands forward Arjen Robben used his speed to blow past Chilean defenders on a few opportunities with dribbles starting in his own half.
Chile’s best chance of the game arguably came in the 44th minute, when Marcelo Diaz curled a free kick into the box that attacking midfielder Felipe Gutierrez inexplicably headed wide of goal.
The South Americans had another chance to score in the 65th minute when Sanchez fired on goal from an acute angle. Seconds later, at the other end of the field, Robben took on two defenders and still pulled out a shot on goal, though one that was comfortable for Chile goalkeeper Claudio Bravo.
The breakthrough came in the 77th minute off a corner kick. Robben played the corner kick out to right back Daryl Janmaat, who curled in a beautiful ball into the center of the box. Fer, making his World Cup debut, rose majestically in the air and powered a header to give the Netherlands a lead they would not relinquish.
With Chile pushing everyone forward looking for an equalizer, the Oranje scored an insurance goal in stoppage time to finish off La Roja. De Jong sent a clearance down the left sideline for Robben, who was cheating far forward, to run on to. Robben muscled off his defender and sent a pass across the face of goal for Depay to finish, scoring his second goal in as many games to send Holland through at the top of the group.