Spain suffered a 5-1 hammering at the hands of
Netherlands, while Javier Hernandez missed a sitter in
Mexico's 1-0 win over Cameroon
Spain's defence of the World Cup got off to the worst
possible start after Netherlands - inspired by Robin van
Persie and Arjen Robben - ran out 5-1 winners on Friday
The Manchester United striker netted twice as he
capitalised on a leaky Spain defence, while in the day's first
fixture, Javier Hernandez and Samuel Eto'o both featured as
Mexico edged past Cameroon.
ROBIN VAN PERSIE
GOAL'S MATCH RATING
The striker’s erstwhile Manchester United team-mate Rio
Ferdinand revealed before the game that Robin van Persie
was reduced to the role of “sideshow” under David Moyes.
Louis van Gaal clearly holds the former Arsenal striker in a
higher regard and his captain rewarded him with a stunning
headed equaliser against the run of play.
Van Persie hardly got a kick in the first half but the
anticipation, poise, awareness and technique he displayed in
powering Daley Blind’s long pass over Iker Casillas with an
inch-perfect header represented a stark reminder of the
talent the 30-year-old possesses in abundance.
Van Persie rattled the crossbar with a thumping volley in the
second half before he compounded Iker Casillas’ misery with
an opportunistic strike after the goalkeeper miss controlled
a simple pass back to him.
Prior to Van Persie pulling Netherlands level, Silva spurned a
glorious chance to put Spain further ahead. The Manchester
City midfielder was put through on goal by an exquisite pass
from Andres Iniesta but his effort from 10 yards out lacked
the power to cause Jasper Cillessen major problems.
Silva eventually had the ball in the net after the break but his
effort from close range was rightly ruled out for offside.
The 28-year-old was replaced by Fernando Torres with
just over 10 minutes remaining.
The Aston Villa centre half was one of few players to
emerge with any semblance of credit following a hugely
disappointing season for Paul Lambert’s side and he carried
his domestic form onto the international stage.
The rugged centre-half is by far the most experienced
member of the Dutch’s rearguard and he used all of his nous
to cope with the threat of Diego Costa, making one fabulous
tackle in the first half to deny the Chelsea-bound striker
and marshalled his defence superbly in the second.
The Chelsea full-back was outplayed by his opposite
number Daley Blind, who launched a fine, raking pass to set-
up Van Persie's leveller and a neat through ball to assist the
first of Arjen Robben's two goals.
Despite his side shipping five goals, Azpilicueta was the
most impressive member of Spain's back four. Solid when
defending up close and assured in possession.
JONATHAN DE GUZMAN
Struggled early on to cope with Spain’s incessant pressing
and coughed up possession allowing Diego Costa the chance
to hone in on goal before Ron Vlaar made a timely
Kept things ticking over in midfield before he was
substituted midway through the second half.
Eto’o, appearing in his fourth World Cup, looks unlikely to
remain at Chelsea following an underwhelming season at
Stamford Bridge. His ongoing war of words with Jose
Mourinho is only likely to have one winner and after an
innocuous performance against Mexico, it’s easy to see why
the Portuguese appears to be under the impression that the
former Barcelona and Inter man will be surplus to
requirements next season.
Eto’o appeared to take on the role of manager in the pre-
match warm-up but he hardly led by example on the pitch
once the game got underway, rarely troubling his former
Barcelona team-mate and fellow veteran Rafa Marquez. On
the one occasion he did escape the attention of his markers
the 33-year-old was unable to steer his left-footed shot
inside the near post after he had been located by Benoit
Assou-Ekotto’s fizzing low centre.
The Manchester United forward complained in the build-up
to the match that he was uneasy with being labelled a
super-sub but after Oribe Peralta’s winner and Hernandez’s
late horror miss the 26-year-old may have to get used to
spending more time on the substitutes’ bench.
Peralta, Mexico’s top goalscorer in qualifying, showed a
predator’s instinct to tuck home the only goal of the game
after Charles Itandje had made an impressive low save. By
contrast, Hernandez, who Goal understands is likely to
leave Old Trafford this summer, showed definite signs of
ring rust when handed the opportunity to put the game
beyond doubt in the closing stages, firing wildly over from six
yards when completely unmarked.