Oranje -Spain 2014: 1-5, the forgotten facts

Hi all, I hope all are safe in their homes, waiting for this nightmare to end? And hopefully you manage to replace live football with some trips down memory lane (YouTube is your friend).

How ’bout a look at that 1-5 super match, but through different eyes? VI Pro takes us there.

Iker Casillas howlers. The flying header by Van Persie. The Robben dribbles. So many moments from that 1-5 match, the opening for Spain and Holland at the WC 2014, etched in our memories for ever. Looking at the stats, there are 5 topics that make this duel even more intriguing when revisiting.

  1. Cillesen couldn’t find a pass

Which player in the Spain – Holland match had the most touches? Not Nigel, not Sneijder. It was Jasper Cillesen. The Oranje goalie touched the ball a whopping 57 times! And not from a position of strength, and definitely not to make saves. Oranje did not know how to play out under Spain’s pressure. The Dutch goalie didn’t know what to do with the ball. Only in 54% of the attempts was Cillesen able to reach a team mate. This tactical issue was pushed to the background thanks to the end result.

The image above is symbolic for the first half. Spain uses the three forwards to keep a grip on the Oranje defense. Wide players Andres Iniesta and David Silva keep on hunting for the ball which forces Cillesen to use the long ball.

After the match, Van Gaal indeed concurred that he would have switched to 4-3-3 if the half time result would have stayed 1-0 for Spain. Now, he started of course with the 5-3-2 and he kept that system in place for the second half. Although Van Gaal would call it 1-3-4-3. And it would be go into history as a tactical master stroke. A system perfect for counter football (second half) but useless when trying to turn the score around (first half).

2. Oranje swings for 30 minutes only

This is the second topic. When you re-watch the game, don’t expect a master class. In this match, Oranje has 36% possession and only has two decent attacks in the first half. After 6 minutes or so, Wesley Sneijder ends up alone in front of Casillas but misses, and right before the half time break, the brilliant high-point (pun intended) by Van Persie.

The xG-ratio between Spain (red) – The Netherlands (blue): from the 3-1 onwards, Oranje creates the best opportunities…

One look at the quality of the chances in the form of expected goals, a stat that calculates the odds on a goal based on comparable moves in the past, teaches us that Spain was the better team until the 3-1. Spain was helped to get the first goal, with a soft penalty after an alleged foul by De Vrij on Diego Costa. In the 25 minutes after that goal, Oranje was a spectator, watching Spain play a huge rondo. There is hardly pressure on the ball and the five defenders don’t come across as a solid back 5.

This all changes in the last 30 minutes of the game. Spain coach Del Bosque takes a risk. He takes Alonso, the holding mid, off for Pedro, to get speed on the wings. With Xabi Alonso, Ramos and Pique lack protection in the duels with speedy Robben and shrewd Van Persie. When Iker Casillas also flaps at the ball from a Sneijder free-kick, De Vrij is able to score the 1-3 (by heading the ball onto his foot!). From that moment on, Spain implodes and allows Oranje to swing.

3. Daley Blind was the Free Man

No matter how good Robben and Van Persie were, there is a strong case to make for Daley Blind as Man of the Match. Blind was Oranje’s free man on the left and it was his amazing pas that allowed Van Persie to beat Casillas. And in the second half he was the man with the pass on Robben for the 1-2. Blind, who recently said he packages a message into the pass, for the receiving player. Van Persie and Robben read the message and understood it. And the 1-3 by De Vrij? The free kick was awarded for a foul on Blind. Statistically: Blind created the most chances (4), had the most assists (2) and most passes (41).

This image shows the situation well. The Spaniards use their wide men to press inside, allowing the wide wingback Blind to find space. Oranje started to realise this more and more and Blind was able to make the difference when his team mates successfully found him. His vision was always forward and he was always trying to find space for Robben and Van Persie. Blind became the launching pad of many Oranje attacks.

4. No one defended as good as Stefan de Vrij

Stefan de Vrij would be even a more anonymous Man of the Match than Daley Blind. Who goes back in his memory will probably remember his clumsy tackle on Costa and the header/footer with which he canceled his mistake out. But we seem to forget that Costa tricked the ref, that De Vrij had seven successful tackles and four successful interceptions and was Oranje’s most impressive defender. And this was extra impressive as Van Gaal subbed De Vrij with 75 minutes played (he was not 100% fit) for Veltman. So he only had 75 minutes for these stats. No one (also not Ramos) offered a defensive performance like De Vrij.

Stefan de Vrij in the circle making sure Iniesta doesn’t get a touch

De Vrij did what Van Gaal wanted from him. He pushed onto Iniesta, the roaming left winger /playmaker. The white wizard struggled with that, so much so that Del Bosque took him from the wing and brought Pedro to give it a try. The current Chelsea player also couldn’t get a foot in with De Vrij. It was Martins Indi who lacked the timing of his former Feyenoord partner, when Bruno was too late on Silva, who was able to play in Costa. De Vrij had to make a last ditch block, allowing Costa to turn and “stumble” over De Vrij’s foot: penalty.

5. Gini Wijnaldum had the perfect game

Wijnaldum started on the bench of course. De Guzman played from the start but he was the weakest Dutch player on the pitch. He was hardly available as an option in midfield, he had zero successful tackles and was played off the ball six (!) times. Add to that the yellow card he received and it was only logical that Van Gaal brought Wijnaldum. And the Liverpool star did everything De Guzman omitted, and he did it perfectly. 100% of his passes reached a team mate. He won an aerial duel, had a successful tackle and a successful dribble.

This image is typical for Wijnaldum’s confidence and ball control. He was always available, even when marked. Here he shields the ball and helps it to the left, to Martins Indi who starts the attack which would result in the 1-3 (De Vrij). Wijnaldum always finds the simple solution. He brought composure to the team and was able to choose his moments to join in on the attack. His sub turn vs Spain was the perfect announcement of the role he would be playing at Liverpool, the tactical multifunctional player, with skill, lungs, legs and discipline, who is there to help the team, completely ego-less.

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  1. Agree, really good article. Wijnaldum was a revelation, as before that performance he had always been primarily an attacking player. But the energy he brought closing down opposing players and foraging for loose balls was exactly what the NT needed in that position. His energy abd performance in the 2nd half against Mexico, in the heat, was crucial in driving the comeback. Didn’t know De Vrij’s numbers were that good.

    In looking back at that WC, Van Gaal really pulled every string he could in getting the most out of that team—the switch in formations, playing Kuyt at right wingback; crucial substitutions in bringing in Fer and Memphis in at the right time; and tasking Sneijder with real defensive responsibilities. Getting so much out of De Vrij and Vlaar. Good memories. Thanks.

    Let me echo Guillaume, and offer my hopes that all is well for everyone else out there.

  2. looking from both sides and specially the spain game you have to put into the context that that was a very declining spain team and Del Bosque probably made the same mistake as Marwijk as in 2012. It took him until the australia game to realise where it went wrong but then it was too late.

    For the dutch,agree with Andrew on how Van gaal kept pulling the right strings and also more importantly he had good bench as well who were decisive when called upon.hunteelar,Fer,krul,

    Could the dutch have beaten the germans if the would have qualified for the final?

  3. Well, I will grant you that Robben emphasized the contact, but I’m not convinced that he dove. But then again, I’m biased. 😉 I guess I should take another look.

    As to the PK’s, wasn’t there some type of kerfuffle afterwards, with it coming out that no one wanted to take the opening kick? Was that ever established as true?

    I don’t think they would have been favored over the Germans (unless maybe Paul the Octopus picked them—oops, wrong WC), but they absolutely could have beaten them. Whatever else can be said about the Germans, their back 4 could be got at, and Robben was in superb form. Plus, the Dutch defense was a stone wall. After the Australia game, they gave up one goal over the next 5 matches (including two OT’s).

  4. Here you go


    The moment he lunges in the air. The theatrical part I guess is the reflexs of his hands while in the air.

    I thought they narrowly missed the bullet vs Australia. They were troubled through out the game especially by that leckie guy.it was after he was replaced that the dutch took control of the game.

    1. Thanks, Wilson. Yes, Australia had a lead in the second half, and had me worried. even after Van Persie tied the game, an Aussie player had the enire goal in front of him on a header, and managed to put it straight at Cillesen, while Memphis’ goal probably should have been stopped. Seemed like a little bit of let down after the victory over Spain, and with Chile coming up.

    2. Van gaal team struggled at begining esecailly vs Spain but they improved game after game….VS chile they layed their best game..We wre always played better without BMI…
      I dont give a SH#$$T about Mexico match or Costarica match…..BOTH DECIDED TO PARK the bus vs strong orange team….They almost got away with win with such a negative strategy…Glad that Roben F@@ked them…

  5. Hope everyone are fine,i was out with out internet…
    Martins indi was not great either not just De guzman…When orange moved to 532 to 442 we were better team..Indi was a liability..We struggled with INDI …indi was comitting foul after after fou…i wwas afradi of red card..

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