Brazil 2014 has evolved into a game of “Can You Top This?” And everyday the answer comes back as yes.
Wednesday’s first game was a 3-2 comeback win for the Netherlands over Australia. The Netherlands, fresh off a dominant performance versus defending World Cup champions Spain figured to roll over the plucky underdogs Australia.
Beforehand the question was, could the Netherlands repeat or even improve upon last week’s 5-1 pasting of Spain? And what about Australia? Would the Socceroos park the proverbial bus, or would Australia come out and have a go at the big favorite?
We found out immediately with Australia bravely challenging Holland all over the pitch, perhaps surprising the Oranje.
The Dutch got on the board first, with a trademark breakaway goal from Arjen Robben. Robben’s goal was good, very good, but in keeping with the can you top this? theme, Tim Cahill answered, yes I can.
It took less than a minute for the New York Red Bulls Cahill to level this match with what may be the goal of the tournament, so far. Australian fullback Ryan McGowan hit a looping 40 yard cross field ball that Cahill struck with his weaker left foot for a perfect volley into the roof of the Netherlands net.
Australia would then take an unlikely lead on a Mile Jedinak penalty kick in the 54th minute. The hand ball call seemed harsh on Holland defender Daryl Janmaat who made no move toward the ball with his hand.
Again, the opposition answered back quickly. This time it took four minutes with Oranje star Robin van Persie scoring from a fine set up from young substitute Memphis Depay.
Can you top this indeed. The match finally turned on an end to end sequence that culminated in a 68th minute goal from Dupay. Tommy Oar sent a cross to Mathew Leckie at the end of a breakaway from Australia. Leckie, in a decision he will long regret, tried to chest the ball past Holland keeper Jasper Cillessen, who gathered easily. Why Leckie, who was so good against in this match, did not head the ball only he can know.
Then the Netherlands took of on a flying counterattack that resulted in the winning goal. Depay’s long range blast was served with a side of swerve, but Maty Ryan had it in his sights the whole way, and should have come up with the save.
It was a dramatic swing, but try as they might, Australia could not turn things back their way. Combined with Spain’s capitulation to Chile, Australia are eliminated from the 2014 World Cup.
The final match of the day couldn’t possibly live up to the two that preceded, could it. For once at this Mundial the answer came back no.
Early it looked like Croatia and Cameroon might approach those lofty standards with Cameroon off to a flyer. Then Croatia scored against the run of play, a good goal from Ivica Olic in the 11th minute.
Cameroon were still in this game until the 40th minute when Alex Song drew a red card for a ludicrous elbow chop on Mario Mandzukic.
That basically finished Cameroon, both in this match and in the World Cup. Croatia added three second half goals, one from Ivan Perisic, and a brace from Mario Mandzukic.
The result eliminates Cameroon and heightens the drama of Croatia’s final group match against Mexico. Croatia can advance with a win, Mexico go through with a win or a tie.