Australia put up a valiant effort against the Netherlands in the teams' second Group B match at the World Cup, but Loius Van Gaal's side patiently wore the Socceroos down and are all but through to the KO round.
After seeing the Netherlands take apart Spain 5-1 in the first round of Group B matches at the World Cup, Australia likely gulped and said a prayer before taking the pitch against the Oranje on Wednesday in Porto Alegre. And for the first sixty minutes or so, it seemed their prayers had been answered.
If Australia were intimidated by Louis Van Gaal's side, they certainly didn't show it. The Socceroos matched the Dutch side quite well in the early going. Mathew Leckie was especially effective for Australia, finding his way deep down the right flank and often connecting with Mark Bresciano for good looks on goal.
While Leckie, Bresciano, and captain Tim Cahill labored away against the Dutch back line, Australia's defenders were on permanent Arjen Robben watch. But – as the Bayern Munich star is known to do – Robben still managed to dupe the Socceroos in the back. An early run that saw the winger use his speed to overtake the entire Australian back line was only defused by errant through ball. The grin on Robben's face said it, however: he'd be back.
In the 20th minute, he was, putting away the Netherlands' first goal all on his own, again taking advantage of an Australian defense caught sleeping.
But before fans in Australia could even finish their sighs of disappointment, the Socceroos sprung into action and proved they weren't going to be another victim to a Dutch demolition.
Less than a minute after Robben's goal, Tim Cahill took a long ball from Ryan McGowen and evened the score with a beautiful volley from the left side of the area.
Penalty hope for Socceroos
In the second half, substitute Oliver Bozanic made an immediate impact for Australia, fighting up the left side and firing a cross that caught Daryl Janmaat on the arm. The defender hardly had time to move out of the way, but Algerian referee Djamel Haimoudi nonetheless awarded Australia a penalty. Captain Mile Jedinak caught Dutch keeper Jasper Cillessen diving the wrong way and easily fired into the lower left corner to put Australia ahead 2-1.
An upset was certainly in the air after the goal at 54 minutes, but the feeling didn't last long. Robie Van Persie equalized for the Netherlands just three minutes later.
Even a draw would have been a great result for Australia, who kept their foot on the gas as the hour mark passed. But the Dutch persistence – and perhaps tired Australian legs – prevailed, and substitute Memphis Depay took a long shot in the 69th minute from 25 meters that curved just out of reach of Mathew Ryan to give the Netherlands the lead.
The Dutch controlled the final 20 minutes of the game easily and finished with their second win in Group B, all but assuring them of advancing to the knock out round.
Australia's run is effectively over after their loss to Chile to open the tournament. The match also likely spelled the end of Cahill's World Cup career – the 34-year-old picked up his second yellow card of the group stage against the Netherlands, meaning he won't be allowed to play against Spain.
The win for the Netherlands is their 12th straight match without a loss in the World Cup. They face Chile on Monday in their final Group B match.