Natacha Pisarenko, ASSOCIATED PRESS
SALVADOR, Brazil — The Netherlands thrashed Spain 5-1 Friday, toying with the defending champions in the second half and gaining a measure of revenge for its 2010 loss in the World Cup final.
Robin van Persie and Arjen Robben both scored twice and defender Stefan de Vrij grabbed his first international goal in a humiliating defeat for a Spain team that has won its last three major tournaments.
It was the worst loss for Spain in the game's showcase tournament since a 6-1 defeat to Brazil in 1950.
In one game, Van Persie doubled his goal tally from the whole 2010 World Cup. The orange-clad Dutch fans at the Arena Fonte Nova gave him a standing ovation when he was substituted.
The victory was particularly sweet for Netherlands coach Louis van Gaal, who was criticized for his decision to play five defenders against Spain. He insisted the formation had attacking potential as well as nullifying Spain's fluent passing game.
It did. And then some.
At the end, Dutch fans were roaring "Ole" as their team passed the ball around and Spain chased them.
It all started so well for Spain, with Xabi Alonso converting a 27th minute penalty. But it went downhill fast after Van Persie tied the game with an unbelievable looping header shortly before half time. Daley Blind launched a 40-yard pass from near midfield, and Van Persie timed his leap perfectly to guide the ball gently over goalie Iker Casillas, who helplessly watched it go into the net.
Spain, which won the 2010 final thanks to an Andres Iniesta extra-time goal, exerted most of the pressure in the first half of the rematch, but had no answer once the Dutch went ahead and continually hit them on the break.
The final goal came after Robben weaved around Casillas — who was crawling on the grass in desperation — and fired into the untended net.
Spain coach Vicente Del Bosque sat stony faced on his bench at full time, while Van Gaal walked onto the pitch to hug his players.
"This is a very delicate moment for us, and all of us have to find a way to solve it," Del Bosque said.
Spain lost its first match in 2010, and they still have a good chance to get out of the group stage if they can defeat Chile and Australia.
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