SALVADOR, Brazil (AP) — The Netherlands team has to come back down to earth while Spain has to pick itself up and look for a way to bounce back from one of its worst defeats.
The morning after the rampant Netherlands beat reigning World Cup champion Spain 5-1, emotions in the two camps were starkly different, yet the emphasis for both vastly experienced coaches was the same: refocus on the next Group B match at the World Cup.
Louis van Gaal’s team was euphoric after the win that avenged, at least in part, its defeat by Spain in the 2010 World Cup final, but the coach stressed that his players still have plenty of work to do, starting with the next game.
“We don’t have anything yet,” Van Gaal said. “We’ve made a pretty start. If you beat Australia, then you’ve made a good start.”
It was very pretty. After going behind to a Xabi Alonso penalty, Robin van Persie equalized just before half time with a stunning header that changed dramatically swung the momentum toward the Netherlands.
The Manchester United struck again after the break, Arjen Robben scored two memorable goals and defender Stefan de Vrij converted a Wesley Sneijder free kick in a second-half blitz that stunned the Spaniards and raised questions about the aging world and European champion team’s stamina.
The Dutch play Australia next in Porto Alegre on June 18; Spain takes on Chile in Rio on the same day.
“We need to recover. We’re defending champions and two-time European champions,” defender Gerard Pique said after the match at Salvador’s Arena Fonte Nova. “We have to go out and beat Chile.”
That might be easier said than done. While their thrashing was still soaking into the Spaniards, Chile beat Australia 3-1 in Cuiaba, scoring two early goals then hanging on as the Socceroos rallied.
But Vicente Del Bosque’s team knows how to recover from slow starts; it lost its first match in South Africa four years ago and went on to win the title.
“We have to be a team, that’s what made us world champions and 2-time European champions and that’s what we need to remain,” said Fernando Torres, who came on as a second-half substitute with the score at 2-1 but could only watch helplessly as the Dutch scored three more goals at the other end. “You can’t point fingers. We have to learn from our errors.”
Van Persie summed up the mood in the Dutch camp.
“It’s only three points, that’s also the reality,” he said. “But we have to enjoy it.”