Louis Van Gaal, before the FIFA World Cup 2014 Group B game between the Netherlands and Australia, insisted the Socceroos would not sit back against the Dutch, and would actually take the game to them.
The Holland coach's prediction proved to be right, and then some, as Australia put in a spirited performance of immense attacking quality, highlighted by a goal of the tournament contender from Tim Cahill. However, for the second straight game they also failed to convert performance into a positive result, as the Netherlands just had that little bit more in the goalscoring tank to come away with an end-to-end cannot-take-your-eyes-off-it 3-2 victory.
The Netherlands were involved in another high-scoring match, with this time, Van Gaal's men given a real run for their money by the Australians in Porto Allegre. Arjen Robben and Robin Van Persie got their now customary World Cup goal, as did Cahill, with Mile Jedinak also joining in the goalscoring fun, before Memphis Depay, the 20-year-old winger from PSV Eindhoven, made a name for himself at this World Cup by scoring the winner.
The three points in Porto Alegre virtually seals Holland's spot in the last 16, while Australia are left to ponder on what might have been after suffering their second straight defeat, and the second consecutive one they did not deserve to lose.
Everyone would have thought it was the Dutch who would have the bulk of the possession, trying to break down the Australia defence, but in reality it was the other way around. Australia, with absolutely no fear, took the game to the Netherlands, the team that had annihilated defending champions Spain, and boy did they make those experienced shirts in blue and orange sweat in trepidation.
There was plenty of possession for the Socceroos, with the Dutch happy to soak up the pressure or left with little choice but to, while looking to hit on the counter by using Robben's pace.
The first goal, on 20 minutes, came against the run of play, with the Netherlands scoring what is now becoming a trademark breakaway goal. Daley Blind played the ball to Robben, who did well to round the challenge of Alex Wilkinson with a swivel of his body before putting on that nitro boost. Once Robben stormed into space from near the halfway line with the ball at his feet, the fastest player in the World Cup was uncatchable, with the only question being if he would finish, which he duly did, firing the ball low across Mat Ryan.
Netherlands were in the lead for just a minute, as Cahill equalised with an absolute ripper. It was the kind of goal that you have seen Van Persie score time and again, the ball coming over the shoulder and that left foot smoking the ball into the back of the net on the volley; so for Cahill, a right-footer, to score a goal like that was just plain magnificent.
The pace of the game was relentless, from minute one to minute 90, as Australia just kept coming at the Netherlands, and Holland, in turn, made those blindingly speedy runs.
The Aussies could have gone into halftime 2-1 ahead, but Marc Bresciano fired his shot high over Jasper Cillessen after being setup expertly by Mathew Leckie. The Dutch were forced into a substitution on the stroke of halftime, after Cahill's challenge on Martins Indi forced the defender off. The tackle was also a big price to pay for Cahill, who will miss the next game after picking up his second boking of the tournament, making this game, most likely, the 34-year-old's last of the 2014 World Cup.
If change in the pattern of play was expected in the second half, there was none as both teams just poured forward, with the quality of the game cranked up just that little higher, with the Dutch putting their foot on the accelerator after Louis Van Gaal was forced to change his formation to a 4-3-3 following Martins Indi's injury, with winger Depay coming in.
Australia, who nearly scored right from the second half kickoff, jumped into the lead the 54th minute courtesy a Jedinak penalty. Daryl Janmaat was adjudged to have handled the ball off a cross from Oliver Bozanic, who had only just come on for the injured Bresciano. It was a little harsh, as the hands were not extended too much and the distance from the cross and the player wasn't too great either.
Australia did not care though, and their 15,000 or so fans went into delirium as Jedinak calmly slotted the penalty home.
However, for the second time in the game, an equaliser was scored almost immediately after the go-ahead goal. This time it was Van Persie, who like Cahill will miss the next match after his second booking of the tournament, netting four minutes after Jedinak's penalty, firing into the roof of the net off a through ball from Depay.
This relentless game kept pinging one way and then the other, with Australia missing a wonderful chance to go 3-2 up, as Leckie could only chest the ball to Cillessen's arms off a left-channel cross from Tommy Oar, who probably should have gone for the shot instead.
Seconds after that missed opportunity, the Netherlands were ahead, with Ryan unable to prevent Depay's shot from 30 yards from nestling into the net – it was a shot the goalkeeper should have saved, but Ryan did make up for that mistake, with a couple of outstanding saves later in the game, especially one off Vlaar, which looked destined to head into the goal.
Australia threw the kitchen sink at Holland in the final moments, but, if anything, it was the Dutch who looked more dangerous with space opening up, leaving the Socceroos to walk away from a second straight game where they gave it their all and deserved at least a point, but left with nothing.