PORTO ALEGRE, Brazil (AP) — The Netherlands had to work much harder for victory over the World Cup’s lowest-ranked team than it did against the defending world and European champion.
A goalkeeping blunder by Maty Ryan handed substitute Memphis Depay his first international goal and the Netherlands the winner Wednesday after a spirited Australia had brought the Dutch back down to earth with a bump following their 5-1 thrashing of Spain in their Group B opener.
“In a tournament you can’t play every game fantastically from beginning to end,” striker Robin van Persie said.
Arjen Robben opened the scoring with a break-away goal before Tim Cahill’s stunning volley brought the sides level just a minute later. Mile Jedinak then converted a 54th minute penalty and Van Persie equalized with his third goal of the tournament four minutes after that.
Depay’s speculative long-range shot beat Ryan in the 68th to give the Dutch a 3-2 victory.
Chile’s 2-0 win over Spain later in the evening was enough to guarantee the Netherlands a spot in the round of 16. The Dutch will play Chile in Sao Paulo on Monday to decide the Group B winner as defending champion Spain made an early exit.
It was a tactical change by coach Louis van Gaal that may have helped turn the game for the Dutch, who gave away the ball too often in the first half under pressure from Australia.
After starting with the same 5-3-2 formation that tore apart Spain, Van Gaal switched to the traditional Dutch system of 4-3-3 at half time — a change forced on him in part by an injury to Bruno Martins Indi and in part to switch the way his players were approaching the match.
“That is the natural system that every Dutch boy grows up with,” Van Gaal said. “We can always switch to that system. In the second half it went much better.”
Regardless of which system his team was playing, Van Gaal said he was pleased with its productivity.
MANAUS, Brazil (AP) — Mario Mandzukic scored two goals to keep Croatia in the mix at the World Cup with a win over 10-man Cameroon, which will be going home after the group stage.
Mandzukic, who returned to the team at the Arena da Amazonia after sitting out the opening loss to Brazil through suspension, headed in a corner from Danijel Pranjic in the 61st minute and then knocked in a rebound in the 73rd of the Group A game.
Ivan Perisic also scored one goal and made another for Ivica Olic.
Cameroon was reduced to 10 men after midfielder Alex Song was given a red card for elbowing Mandzukic in the back in an off-the-ball incident in the 40th minute.