5-1 Dutch defeat leaves Spain reeling at World Cup
Netherlands fans cheer during the match against Spain at the Fonte Nova Arena in Salvador during the 2014 FIFA World Cup on June 13, 2014 - by Damien Meyer
A jubilant van Persie, who scored one of the best goals seen at the World Cup, said it was one of greatest football nights for the Netherlands. Spain's goalkeeper and captain Iker Casillas took the blame for what he called his worst night.
Van Persie pounced in each half as the Dutch recovered from a controversial Xabi Alonso penalty to inflict the worst defeat suffered by Spain in 51 years and the worst suffered by any defending champions in their return to the World Cup.
Chile beat a stubborn Australia 3-1 to fall behind the Netherlands at the top of Group B on goal difference.
Mexico beat Cameroon 1-0 in Group A, but claimed they should have had two more on the scoresheet as referees' decisions again inflamed the World Cup debate.
Van Persie made an incredible dive to reach a header from a long pass that sent the ball over Casillas to level the game just before half-time.
Film of the goal went viral. It gave the Dutch, who thought the penalty awarded against Stefan de Vrij for a challenge on Diego Costa was rough justice, belief that revenge for 2010 was possible.
De Vrij got his personal revenge for the penalty and Robben scored twice around van Persie's second goal, as Spain's night fell apart.
"We didn't react well to Van Persie's second goal -- they were euphoric and they hammered us," said Spain coach Vicente del Bosque.
"We did everything wrong in the second half, it was a debacle," added Spain's veteran midfielder Xavi.
It was a personal humiliation for goalkeeper Casillas, 33, one of the stars of the team that so brilliantly won the 2008 and 2012 European Championships and 2010 World Cup.
"I have to ask forgiveness for the match we played in general and me in particular," he said after. "I was not good enough."
Even Van Persie was shocked by the scale of the defeat.
"It could have been five, oh, yeah, it was five, but it could have been six, seven or eight goals, in my opinion," the Manchester United star said.
It was the "greatest" night for Dutch football, he added.
- A first round exit? -
The extraordinary Group B drama in the northern Brazilian city of Salvador has potentially turned World Cup permutations on their head.
If Spain fail to recover, they could conceivably crash out in the first round, or face a daunting clash with Brazil in the last 16.
The walloping eclipsed more refereeing controversies on the second day of competition.
FIFA officials earlier defended Japanese referee Yuichi Nishimura after he awarded Brazil a bitterly contested penalty in their opening game victory over Croatia.
Referees chief Massimo Busacca insisted Nishimura had been justified in awarding the spot-kick after an alleged foul by Dejan Lovren on Brazilian striker Fred.
"He had a very good position," said Busacca, referring to a photo of the incident which appeared to show Lovren's hands making contact with Fred.
"When he saw the hands doing something he makes it (the decision)."
- More blunders -
But no sooner had referees chief Busacca sprung to Nishimura's defence than officiating was again under scrutiny as Mexico took on Cameroon.
Mexico's Oribe Peralta scored the only goal of a rain-lashed Group A game in Natal, securing a precious three points for Miguel Herrera's side.
But the main talking point after the game was Colombian referee Wilmar Roldan who chalked off what looked like two valid Mexico goals in the first half.
"The referee has taken two goals off us but we go away with three points and in top spirits," Mexico coach Miguel Herrera said.
In Friday's late game, Chile beat Australia 3-1 to stay level with the Netherlands on points in Group B in Cuiaba.
Alexis Sanchez and Jorge Valdivia struck early in the first half before Australian veteran Tim Cahill led a stirring fightback from the Socceroos.
Cahill scored with a majestic header to make it 2-1 and was unlucky not to have grabbed an equaliser with another headed effort only to be ruled marginally offside.
Jean Beausejour grabbed a third for Chile to make the game safe for the South Americans late on.
Elsewhere Friday, the pitch in the Amazon city of Manaus due to host its first World Cup match when England play Italy on Saturday is not up to the required standard, according to world players union FIFPro.
There are large dry areas on the pitch and some of it has been spray painted green.
Neither England nor Italy officially complained ahead of the much-awaited Group D clash however.