Even a soccer-watching neophyte could detect which team would accept a draw and which craved a win in Group B's biggest showdown Monday.
With both sides assured of passage to the World Cup round of 16, the Netherlands was in goal-prevention mode, knowing that a tie would clinch the top seed based on goal difference. Chile, by contrast, deployed only three defenders and attacked incessantly.
The Dutch began inserting defensive-oriented players in the second half. One of them, midfielder Leroy Fer, pulled off a textbook header that provided a goal his team ultimately did not need in a 2-0 victory.
Most of the Dutch chances came on the counter-attack. The strategy finally produced a score in stoppage time with a cross by the consistently outstanding Arjen Robben to Memphis Depay for a tap-in.
The sides had combined for 13 goals in their previous matches, but the Cup points system induced the potent Dutch to switch to less eye-pleasing tactics. They yielded ball possession to Chile by a 2-to-1 margin. Another factor for their defensive posture was the absence of the suspended Robin van Persie, who had scored thrice.
Incentive to win the group was driven by a desire to avoid the host team as opening opponent in the knockout portion. If form plays out, Chile would face projected Group A winner Brazil.
In B's other match, which had no bearing on the points race, Spain salvaged a scintilla of joy from a disastrous tournament by trouncing Australia, 3-0.
The Spanish swapped out more than half of the lineup that had let them down in two losses. Monday's initial goal-getter was, at once, a new starter and a trusty old hand -- David Villa, 32, the national team's career goals leader.
Upon scoring, Villa kissed the crest on his jersey in what figured to be his farewell. He will become an employee of sorts with the New York Yankees, who partly own his next pro club -- New York City FC in MLS.Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times