It was not pretty, it was not the kind of game expected from two of the best attacking teams in this 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil, but it was yet another victory for the Netherlands, who, yet again, showed the more tactical nous and finishing prowess to deflate a previously bursting-with-confidence Chile and with it seal top spot in Group B.
The Netherlands were far from their best against the South Americans in this match – not that Chile were too great either, as both teams rather failed to show up to the party – but they showed once more they know how to win, scoring two late goals, via substitutes Leroy Fer and Memphis Depay, his second goal in as many games, to finish Group B with three wins out of three, and consign Chile to second place.
Netherlands will now hope to avoid Brazil in the last 16, with the hosts needing a win to as good as ensure top place in Group A, while Mexico and Croatia are also in contention for a knockout berth.
Much was expected of this match, but it failed to deliver in most accounts from the attacking point of view, as the two teams, with pressure eased off having already qualified, left the intensity button back in their hotel rooms.
With both sides comfortable on the counter-attack, the first ten-15 minutes of the match was basically about the two sizing each other up, with a bit of "you attack first, no please after you" going on.
Chile had a raucous crowd at the Arena Corinthians roaring them on, and the South Americans were the team that were a little more active in the forward department, with Holland happy to sit back, absorb the pressure and hit their opponents on the counter.
Chile's irrepressible forward play has been one of the highlights of this tournament, but with Holland playing with a five-man defence again – Dirk Kuyt came in as a wing-back, with Daley Blind stepping into one of the central defensive spots left open by the injury to Bruno Martins Indi – they found it difficult to find space to run into and use that blinding pace of theirs.
Both teams love to run into space, and most of the chances that were created, particularly for Holland, came via that route, with Arjen Robben, with the captain's armband in the absence of the suspended Robin Van Persie, making a couple of those trademark runs.
One of those runs nearly led to a goal, and would have been a goal of the tournament contender, with the flying forward picking up the ball well inside his own half, leaving a couple of Chile midfielders for dead, before running onto Chile's heart, and leaving Gary Medel for dead as well, but just pulling his shot wide in the end.
At the other end, Chile's man man Alexis Sanchez was a busy bee, but the final product just went missing for the forward time and again. As frustrations amongst the Chile ranks grew, the not so beautiful aspect of this otherwise wonderful side came to the fore. Desperate to find that equaliser, Charles Aranguiz and Sanchez went to ground inside the Netherlands penalty box a little too easily, but the referee, thankfully, was unmoved as the Netherlands were not forced to suffer conceding a third penalty in as many games.
If the first half was tight, the second wasn't too different either, even if the Netherlands showed a little more attacking intent. There were a couple of potshots here and there, but nothing really to worry either side's defence, and you always felt the game might turn on substitutions.
And so it proved as Fer came on for Welsey Sneijder and in a matter of moments scored the winner. Another substitute Depay, who replaced the ineffective Jeremain Lens, given the unenviable job of filling in for his skipper Van Persie, forced a nice save from Claudio Bravo off a shot from 25 yards, and off the ensuing corner Netherlands went 1-0 ahead.
Robben played the ball short to Daryl Janmaat on the right, who whipped in a brilliant cross for Fer to head in on 77 minutes after being left all alone seven yards out.
Chile threw a lot of bodies in the final ten minutes, but Netherlands held off the South Americans' challenge before ripping them on a classic counter – Robben running in full tilt down the left channel, before crossing the ball for Depay to tap-in -- to end their Group B campaign with a perfect record.
Spain make amends
In the second Group B game in Curitiba, played simultaneously with the Netherlands-Chile match, defending champions Spain ensured they left this World Cup on a winning note by picking up a 3-0 win over Australia, who have to count themselves unlucky having to leave Brazil without a single point to their kitty.
David why-on-earth-wasn't-he-used-in-the-first-two-games Villa, playing in his final game for Spain, opened the scoring for Spain nine minutes before halftime, applying a brilliant flick into goal off a cross from Juanfran after a nice through ball from Andres Iniesta, playing in his 100th match for Spain, which set the right-back free on the right.
The game stayed 1-0 until the 69th minute, when Torres finally got his goal, slotting the ball past Mat Ryan off another gem of a through ball from Iniesta. Juan Mata made it an emphatic 3-0 for Spain, latching onto an over the top pass from Cesc Fabregas, before finding the back of the net with consummate ease.
It was not what Spain imagined at the beginning of the tournament, when they looked like they could win a second straight World Cup crown; but at the very least they left their mark, albeit a rather small and inconsequential one, in the final game with a decent victory, when shrivelling up and giving in might have been the easier thing to do.