World Cup roundup: CHI-AUS, ESP-NED, MEX-CMR (June 13)
Group B: Chile 3, Australia 1
CUIABA, Brazil (AP) — Alexis Sanchez produced a dynamic performance to lead Chile to a 3-1 win over Australia in the World Cup today, scoring one goal and setting up another for one of the dangerous outsiders in the tournament.
Chile threatened to run away with the game in muggy Cuiaba when Sanchez poked home from close range in the 12th minute, before setting up Jorge Valdivia barely a minute later for the playmaker to finish from the edge of the area.
But Australia recovered well, responding with a trademark headed goal by star forward Tim Cahill in the 35th and giving the Chileans a string of scares in the second half. However, Jean Beausejour put the game away for Chile in injury time to help the South Americans level on three points in Group B with the Netherlands.
Boasting its best ever squad for a World Cup, Chile has been strongly tipped by many — including Pele — to go far in Brazil, despite being thrown in the same group as two of Europe's top teams.
"It's gut wrenching to be honest," Australia coach Ange Postecoglou said. "In the end, we gave away a two-goal start, and that's what killed us."
It was already looking like a damage-limitation exercise for the beleaguered Socceroos, the lowest-ranked nation in Brazil. The raucous Chilean fans were regaling their team's crisp passing with chants "Ole" and a no-look backheel from Sanchez highlighted his confidence.
"They got in twice," Cahill said. "[But] after that, you could see their legs were going. We knew we could get something out of this game. We stood up strong. It's just unfortunate, not a lot went our way tonight, and it showed."
Group B: Netherlands 5, Spain 1
SALVADOR, Brazil (AP) — Whatever happened to Spain's usually rock-solid defense?
A backline that helped Spain win its last three major tournaments was ripped to shreds in a 5-1 defeat by the Netherlands at the World Cup today, as the defending champions tumbled to their heaviest competitive defeat since 1950.
"I can't find the words" to explain it, coach Vicente del Bosque said. "I don't want to point fingers at anybody. A team's defeat doesn't come down to just one player. I don't want to point fingers at [Iker Casillas] or anyone."
In the game, Casillas gifted Robin van Persie his second goal and the Real Madrid keeper was down and beaten as Arjen Robben waltzed through the area to score his second of the night.
"I didn't do things like I should have, especially to start a World Cup," Casillas said. "It wasn't one of my best games, I wasn't at the level I needed to be. I have to accept all criticism."
Gerard Piqué was easily rounded by Robben for his first goal and then outsprinted by the Dutchman for his second, despite having a clear head start on the 30-year-old midfielder.
"The second half was terrible," Piqué said. "We were just awful."
Spain's players left the Arena Fonte Nova pitch in disbelief, with their coach trying to maintain morale by encouraging his players at the final whistle.
"We found space in the first half, but everything started crumbling in the second," Del Bosque said. "We're a team of professionals and we have to understand that while this defeat hurts, no one should be reproached."
In one game, Spain conceded more goals than it did in its last two major tournaments combined.
Group A: Mexico 1, Cameroon 0
NATAL, Brazil (AP) — With torrential rain pouring down and two goals already contentiously disallowed, tens of thousands of soggy but boisterous Mexico fans were getting nervous.
They had already started chanting for Javier "Chicharito" Hernandez, the striker benched in favor of Oribe Peralta, to come on and deliver a game winner.
Seconds after the chant began, Peralta scored in the 61st minute to help Mexico to a 1-0 victory today and the three points it needed to have any chance of advancing from a tough Group A at the World Cup.
Peralta's goal gave Mexico its first win over an African team at the World Cup and justified coach Miguel Herrera's faith that he could deliver on the biggest stage in the world.
"We could have scored more, but unfortunately we're not used to these conditions," Herrera said. "Frankly, the refereeing took away two clear goals, but at the end of the day you've got to work for it, and we get to the next match with three points and very high spirits."
While the heat was expected to be an issue in this balmy coastal city, rain soaked the field at the new Arena das Dunas starting about four hours before the match and never let up, creating a cool day but a slick surface.
Mexico players said the field held up well and the conditions favored their style of play.
"They made us feel like locals," Herrera said, comparing the atmosphere with Mexico's home stadium. "It felt a little bit like Azteca."
At the final whistle, Herrera kneeled, crossed himself and pumped his right fist. Cameroon coach Volker Finke stood with his arms crossed, scowling as the rain dripped off his face.
For Cameroon, the lackluster performance will only magnify controversies back home over a player bonus pay dispute that delayed their arrival in Brazil, and will raise more questions about whether they're a fractured team.