Someone asked me how my blog and newspaper column came to be titled "Bleachers Brew". It's like this, it's an amalgam of sorts of two things: The bleachers area in the stadium/arena where I used to sit when I would watch baseball, football, and basketball games and Miles Davis' great jazz album Bitches Brew. That's how it got culled together. I originally planned on calling it "The View from the Big Chair" that is a nod to Tears For Fear's second album, Songs from the Big Chair. So there.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

2014 World Cup: A gobsmacking Dutch win over Spain

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A gobsmacking Dutch win over Spain
by rick olivares pic by getty images

The first big match of the 2014 World Cup and you can color me gobsmacked!

The Netherlands crushed defending World Cup champions Spain, 5-1, at the Arena Fonte Nova, in a match that sent shockwaves around the world.

Evidently, the 3-0 loss to Brazil in last year’s Confederations Cup Finals, that many said was the beginning of the end of this modern day Spanish empire, merits further study.

The best defense against tiki take is a good offense. Just ask Brazil.

From kick off, Spain as usual dominated possession moving the ball around and probing for holes in the defense of the Netherlands. If tiki taka is about deliberate movements before springing for a lighting attack, the Dutch made no bones about taking away La Roja’s intent with long ball attempts to keep the Spaniards on the defensive.

The problem early on for the Oranje was they kept giving the ball away.

With Spain looking imperious on the pitch, their patience paid off when Xavi Hernandez found Diego Costa on a through ball inside the box.

In a moment of near infamy, Italian referee Nicola Rizzoli whistled Dutch defender Stefan De Vrij for tripping up Diego Costa. But it was actually naturalized Spanish citizen (of Brazilian descent) who tripped himself up when he stepped on De Vrij’s foot. Some 24 hours earlier, Japanese referee Yuichi Nishimura awarded a totally bogus penalty to Brazil that Neymar converted for a 2-1 lead; one that propelled them to a 3-1 victory. And as Xabi Alonso made good on the spot kick to take a 1-nil lead with 27 minutes played this one looked to follow the same plot.

In my preview for the match, I said that Spain cannot give Arjen Robben the run of the field to operate. If so, they risk him conjuring his fleet-footed magic. Robben, who plays a mean duet with Franck Ribery at Bayern Munich, found Wesley Sneijder inside the box but the Galatasaray midfielder botched his shot.

However, with a minute left to play in the first half,

Arjen Robben has got wheels. The 30-year old beat the younger legs of Gerard Pique and Sergio Ramos who are two or three years younger. The Bayern Munich midfielder Daley Blind’s long forward pass found Robin Van Persie who beat the offside trap for a glorious hanging header over a shocked Iker Casillas.

The reaction said it all as Van Persie raced to the sidelines to high five Louis Van Gaal.

Once the second half resumed, the Dutch closed the trap. Eschewing their 4-3-3 formation, they clogged the midfield with five midfielders. As Spain became unable to mount any serious attacking intent, the Dutch went on the offensive.

In the 53rd minute, Van Persie found Robben ahead who sent La Roja’s two centerbacks, Gerard Pique and Sergio Ramos to the left before turning right and sending Casillas diving to his right when he blasted left.

Sensing the game slipping away, Vicente Del Bosque sent in Pedro Rodriguez for Xabi Alonso and Fernando Torres for Diego Costa but to no avail.

De Vrij redeemed himself when he sent a Sneijder free kick into the back of the net and a seemingly improbable 3-1 lead. The Dutch were humming. Van Persie smacked the crossbar.

Spain appeared to pull back one when David Silva slammed one into an empty net after some confusion near the Dutch goal. But it was nullified when the linesman flagged Silva offside.

With the reprieve, Van Persie made Spain pay with his second goal of the night, when a dispossessed Casillas on a back pass for a slot into an empty net.

Yet what was impressive was the 30-year old Robben showing he had wheels to beat out the younger Pique and Ramos en route to a sublime coup de grace, a 5-1 scoreline.

Holland nearly added two more but Casillas found some of his noted verve to turn back a pair of shots (no thanks to a defense that was missing in action).

It was sweet revenge for the Dutch and the massive margin of victory showed the world how to beat the Spaniards – with an aggressive offense and a choking midfield defense. Four years ago, they grasped at straws trying to keep in step or intercept the ball from the Spaniards. It was ugly and the Dutch were condemned for that. This time around they came with a magnificent game plan. It took them 44 minutes to get it going but when they did the floodgates opened.

It was more so magnificent after the rather questionable call that led to the penalty. La Roja dominated possession (but lost control in the second half) but the Dutch made better use of their attacks. Now the Oranje served notice that they too are tired of being the eternal bridesmaid (three times) and are serious about taking home their first World Cup trophy.

If they take down their next two group assignments, Holland can finish atop Group B and take on a more favorable opponent as opposed to Spain, should they rebound from their most disastrous loss in 64 years and advance to the knockout rounds, which will find themselves on a collision course with Brazil.

The shell-shocked looks across the Spanish bench said it all –they had no answers. Only questions.

This World Cup got a whole lot more interesting.

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