Leroy Fer scored a minute after coming on as a substitute to break the deadlock and help give the Netherlands a 2-0 victory over Chile on Monday to top Group B at the World Cup with three consecutive wins.
Fer had only just replaced Wesley Sneijder when he rose almost unmarked in the Chile penalty area to put the Dutch ahead with a powerful 77th-minute header. Another substitute, Memphis Depay, then tapped in a cross from Arjen Robben in injury time to double the lead.
Both teams had already advanced to the second round, but Chile’s first loss of the tournament consigned it to second place in Group B.
The Dutch now travel to Fortaleza to play the Group A runner-up in the round of 16. Chile faces the Group A winner in Belo Horizonte.
Group A leader Brazil was playing already-eliminated Cameroon later Monday and Mexico faced Croatia in the other match.
Chile began with its trademark fast, attacking style while the Dutch, with a five-man defense, looked content to sit back, absorb the pressure and hope to break out with swift counterattacks.
The strategy paid off handsomely.
“We gave nothing away and fought like lions,” stand-in captain Robben said. “Orange lions.”
The match marked the first time at this World Cup the Netherlands had played in its national color, but the change of jerseys didn’t change its fortunes.
Perhaps with an eye on the round of 16, Chile left midfielder Arturo Vidal on the bench. The Juventus star underwent knee surgery last month but started Chile’s first two matches in Brazil and said before the match he was fit to play.
His absence deprived Chile of midfield creativity and it struggled to break down the well-drilled Dutch defense.
Barcelona forward Alexis Sanchez tried to fill the gap left by Vidal, but couldn’t find a way through. He came closest to scoring in the second half with a powerful shot that Jasper Cillessen easily blocked at his near post.
“I’m very proud of this team,” Robben said. “If you see how we fought here today. We were right on top of them and gave them no chances.”
The Netherlands was playing without suspended captain and striker Robin van Persie and was also missing defender Bruno Martins Indi, who suffered a concussion in the team’s last match, a tough 3-2 victory over Australia in Porto Alegre.
No problem for inspirational coach Louis van Gaal, who pulled a tactical surprise with his starting lineup – reverting to the 5-3-2 formation he began with against Spain and posting veteran forward Dirk Kuyt at left back.
Then came his substitutions.
Fer headed in powerfully and Depay doubled his World Cup tally in stoppage time. Robben delayed his cross from the left cleverly until the PSV Eindhoven striker arrived at the far post to tap in an inch-perfect pass.
“He is a huge talent and great for the future of Dutch football,” Fer said of Depay.