But there was a sweet sense of justification for Louis van Gaal tonight as his team smothered Chile’s threat and defeated them in a classic manifestation of counter-attacking football. They have now done all they could have done to avoid Brazil in the second round.
Van Gaal’s side’s defensive stronghold on the match had reduced the South Americans – who are feared by both Brazil and Argentina - to a shadow of the side that defeated Spain before enjoying the self-reflected glory of seeing both his substitutes score – the first of them a mere two minutes after arriving on the field.
Leroy Fer claimed the distinction of becoming the first Norwich City player to score at a World Cup finals when he leapt to navigate home a strong 77 minute header. Memphis Depay wrapped things up.
Three wins to take into the second round make them Europe’s stand-out side. The Dutch will not necessarily light up the second round if they play like this but they are mightily dangerous and organised.
He likes to create an enemy and it has fluctuated between the Dutch media and FIFA. He is Sir Alex Ferguson by any other name.
But though he insists that his 5-3-2 system is total football with a different combination, it was cagey Dutch side which went to work in the game which promised to offer the best sense yet of where the balance of power lay between Europe and South America.
There was no incentive to set the pace in the opposition team’s hemisphere, when the Dutch only required a draw, and it made for a far less incredible spectacle than the fixture had seemed to offer.
The Chilean’s 225 passes completed in the first period, to the Netherlands’ 60 told the story.
By BY IAN HERBERT.
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